ICYMI: DC Charter School Alliance Hosts Discussion on How Charter Schools Collaborate with Community Organizations on Project-Based Learning Opportunities

Jul 9, 2021

Washington, D.C. – The DC Charter School Alliance, an advocacy organization that supports and represents the robust charter school sector in our nation’s capital, held a virtual discussion with Bridges PCS teacher Susan Molholm and 826DC Director of Education Andrea Nelson to discuss their Young Authors’ Book Project and highlight how charter schools collaborate with community organizations on project-based learning opportunities.

You can watch a full recording of the discussion here, or read excerpts below.

“Our vision is that young people develop a lasting and positive relationship with writing,” said Andrea Nelson, Director of Education, 826DC. “We work with schools, administrators, and teachers to talk about their learning objectives. What is it that they want to focus on in the year ahead? What subject area, what writing skills, what areas of interests, what are the needs of their students? From there, our staff develops a scope and sequence of what a project could look like.”

“It was a challenge to teach writing all year virtually […] We were concerned about how we were going to get to know students and build a relationship with them virtually,” said Susan Molholm, 4th Grade ELA Teacher, Bridges Public Charter School. “We were starting a unit on how important are traditions? 826DC came up with a whole plan to address how communities come together, which was perfect because students had that concern – they were worried about COVID and social justice protests. The students had a great experience.”

“Writing often gets thought of as a solitary act,“ said Andrea Nelson, Director of Education, 826DC. “Writing is storytelling, and storytelling is inherently a community-oriented activity […] writing is rooted in relationships. We firmly believe it takes a village, it takes community to occur across spaces. It’s the value of going into schools to partner with teachers and administrators who deeply know these young people so we can collaborate with them to know what’s of interest and what’s going to work, and facilitate that community.”

The ability to break out into small groups and allow students the space to take risks […] I could see a lot of improvement by the end of the year.” said Susan Molholm, 4th Grade ELA Teacher, Bridges Public Charter School. “I feel the students are really well prepared to move up to 5th grade. None of the students really had that forum before to be heard. They see themselves as writers now.”