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Program Aims to Make Students' Dreams Matter in Schools

Writing on The Atlantic's website, teacher Jessica Lahey highlights The Future Project, a nonprofit seeking to connect high schools' curricula with students' dreams for themselves and the future. The idea may sound a little dreamy itself, but Lahey thinks it has the potential to get schools out of an academic rut:

You might expect this would be some kind of whimsical feel-good exercise. But dreaming has never looked like such a practical, powerful step: What recent research is telling us and what The Future Project founders Kanya Balakrishna and Andrew Mangino are betting on is that dreams inspire learning—not the sort of rote, superficial learning that will help students pass state standardized tests but then disintegrate, but real learning that inspires deep, meaningful, life-changing mastery and purpose. Learning that inspires positive change both for the individual and their community.

In essence, The Future Project aims to give schools structural support to draw on students' interests and cultivate outside-the-box learning opportunities. Here's the way it works: The organization puts a "dream director" in a participating school who then assembles a team of interested students, teachers, and community members. The team in turn organizes and works on "passion-based" projects—for example, teaching creative writing in an elementary school, developing a hip-hop studio, or creating a local women's empowerment movement—that ideally ramp up student engagement and creativity and begin to influence the school culture more broadly.

In her post, Lahey links The Future Project to the so-called "genius hour" initiatives in some schools, in which students are given a designated time each week to work on independent projects of their choosing. "Educators are slowly catching on to the magic of these dream-inspired passion projects," Lahey writes. What about in your school?

Below is a promotional video produced by The Future Project:

"I Am a Dreamer" from The Future Project on Vimeo.

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