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 JCCS Exhibitions Highlight Project-Based Learning

adirondack chairs made by East Mesa CTE studentsThe focus on collaborative project-based learning in the San Diego County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) continued to produce meaningful exhibitions of learning from students throughout the fall semester.

At 37ECB, a school in San Diego, a recent student exhibition included reflections based on the students’ volunteer work over two days at Father Joe’s Villages. The theme for the semester was empathy, and teachers felt that volunteer work would help students develop empathy for others.

“When I volunteered at Father Joe's Villages, I had an eye-opening experience,” one student wrote in a reflection. “I felt empathy with those people, especially when I saw a mother and her children. My mother has gone above and beyond to care for me, and I saw this strong mother was doing the same. I could feel her struggles and her drive to care for her children.”

At San Diego SOAR Academy's Girls Rehabilitation Facility in Kearny Mesa, students presented “Project: Vitality” in which they identified and planned what they want their future to look like. Using an action-planning model, students visualized their desired future, identified objectives, developed a plan to address local and global issues, and described how they would implement their vision through action and service learning. The girls explored topics such as energy, life, spirit, and strength to help visualize their ideal future. They used Adobe Spark to produce public service announcement videos on fitness, prescription drug abuse, homelessness and poverty prevention, food waste, and healthy relationships.

Serious construction skills were on display at San Diego SOAR Academy's East Mesa site, where teacher Alex Long’s woodworking students in the career technical education (CTE) program proudly showed their Adirondack chairs. Long’s CTE course started with basic carpentry, power tool use, and work-readiness skills. The students then worked in small groups and with Long’s help to build an Adirondack chair. After completing the group project, each student picked a different Adirondack chair from a group of plans that Long provided. The students then worked independently, with each building his own Adirondack chair.

In San Marcos at North County Technology and Science Blended Academy, students worked with artists from the nonprofit Playwrights Project to craft brief two- or three-scene plays, which then were performed by professional actors at an exhibition for parents and community members.

Students at Innovations Academy of Empowerment in Vista recently presented their projects on personal identity, quadratics in faces, and water quality.

At San Diego SOAR Academy's Kearny Mesa site, students collaborated this semester on an oil pastel art project.

"It was interesting to see the students discover that together they can create beautiful art," teacher Ellen De La Cruz said. "This concept extends to the idea that together they can support one another during their time in Juvenile Hall."

JCCS principals say the exhibitions are powerful examples of student learning, and teachers are already looking ahead to exhibition schedules for the spring semester.

JCCS provides a fully accredited educational program for school-age youth who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, probation, or one of the 42 school districts in San Diego County. Services are provided to incarcerated youth, pregnant minors, foster youth, expelled teens, chronically truant youth, students in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children, and youth experiencing homelessness.

JCCS serves nearly 5,000 students per year at more than 24 sites across the county.