Rocket is a digital network connecting classrooms to their communities, engaging students, teachers, and mentors to foster future success. Over 30,000 Missouri students attend schools in unaccredited districts. Researching these under-performing areas led to the question: what is happening outside classroom walls? Surprisingly, many parents, alumni, and community members have faith that neighborhood involvement and support can help guide a failing district back to recovery.
How might we bring this community support into the classroom?
classroom communication tool, UI/UX design
Over 30,000 Missouri students attend schools in unaccredited districts. In June 2013, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that students from unaccredited districts could transfer to better-performing schools. Unaccredited districts are required to pay tuition and transportation costs of students who wish to transfer schools.
Research & Insights
We interviewed with Geoff Healy, an Attendance Evaluator in Harlem, New York during the 2011-2012 school year. Healy worked to increase attendance and retention for 7-8th grade students. He led morning incentive programs, taught special help programs, reached out to parents, and organized a variety of after school clubs. These programs were designed to provide students with instant satisfaction from achieving specific and achievable short-term goals.
We interviewed with Jennifer Sparks, the Wellness Coach at College Bound STL, a program that provides academic enrichment, social support, and life skills to promising students from under-resourced backgrounds. Starks teaches College Bound students various stress coping mechanisms and leads frequent discussions about the role of community. A nugget from our conversation: “Students living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods struggle to see community as a matter of choice. Instead, it is something into which they are placed.”
We observed a kindergarten music class at Ashland Elementary School, an unaccredited St. Louis Public School where only 14.4% students are testing at proficiency levels. The prevalence of violence and use of exclusionary discipline methods surprised us. Overworked teachers and limited resources make it hard to provide engaging instruction to the students.
Reading How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough provided insight into the links between childhood stress, childhood cosseting, and life success. Early adversity physically affects children’s lives and can also alter the neurological development of their brains. Students born into poverty often think that their destiny is sealed. Effective schools that teach optimism, social agility, and resilience can break this train of thought. These schools act as a second family. Tough argues, “You can’t expect to solve the problems of a school without taking into account what’s happening in the community.”
Design an experience that improves literacy in Missouri’s public school classrooms and is driven by community support.
Rocket is a digital network connecting classrooms to their communities, engaging students, teachers, and mentors to foster future success.
Students visit the site and immediately see the state-wide support system dedicated to the success of Missouri students. The clean layout and friendly colors create a welcoming and intuitive experience.
Visitors can search for specific locations or zoom in to find information about individual schools. Administrators can quickly identify participation levels of each district. Teachers can find and connect with other Missouri teachers.
Each student, teacher, and mentor can customize his/her individual profile. Students are prompted to input information about their career aspirations and hobbies. Mentor profiles include education background, hobbies, and a current job description. Teachers create a profile for their classroom.
After two teachers choose to connect classrooms, students can access a joint discussion forum, inviting both classrooms, teachers, and participating mentors to contribute.
Dialogue between two separate classrooms increases homework accountability. This social blog format provides a low-pressure environment for students to learn from other students. Every student’s opinion is heard.
Archive of Past Assignments
Access to an archive of weekly discussion prompts and responses helps students synthesize their thoughts before in-class discussions.
Community members can apply to become a classroom mentor. Mentors are linked to specific classrooms, following the same lesson plan as the students. Students and teachers can also search the full mentor network
Rocket suggests mentors that align with a student's interests and aspirations. Highlighting these similarities helps facilitate genuine and relevant conversation.
UI/UX: Alexis Turim
Visual Scribe: Shelby Lindblad
Collateral Designer: Sarah Healy
Brand Identity: Alyssa Celentano