The Futures Project

 What Do We Want To Become?  

Over a week in June, a team of 30 educators and teaching artists convened to design ways for schooling to be joyful and engaging during the challenges of the pandemic.
These arts-integrated and community-based learning projects bring students and community members together to take action on the big challenges we face at this historic moment. 
Select a project to customize for your school and we will help you engage a teaching artist to support your project implementation. 
Contact Partnerships Manager Claire Tebbs to get started.
Click on a project's ESSENTIAL QUESTION below to learn more. 

How do we create community closeness in this time of distancing?

The pandemic has changed the ways we interact with each other and work together toward a better future.

This project gets young people and community members to reflect on their challenges and to start creating stronger new connections.

Students will collaborate on a public art work that expresses the challenges and opportunities of strengthening connections during this time of social distancing. Their creative work will take place in school and/or at home.

The culminating event will be an interactive outdoor public art work installation.

Using a shared framework, each student will make an individual piece that contributes to a large, collective public art collage. After the student work is installed in the community by the teaching artist, community members will contribute their own responses to the students' art work. In this way, the project inspires a visual call and response between young people and community members.

Many different kinds of creative follow-up could build on this exchange.

Breakdown polarization and isolation thinking – Build empathy – Empower youth voice – Inspire self-reflection – Strengthen community cohesiveness

Why do people act in mean ways—what must we overcome to live in fairness and justice?

This project identifies what is working and what is not working inside ourselves and in society.

Together we will create powerful statements of gratitude, compassion and respect to help envision and activate the culture shift we need to achieve a just and equitable society.

Students will connect with community groups made up of First Responders, representatives of the Justice system, people who are incarcerated and people of all races, classes, and cultures and invite them to share poems through in-person, virtual, and/or pen-pal poetry exchanges.

The culminating event will be the display of the poems, on large posters in public spaces throughout the community, creating a thought-provoking community-wide art installation, empowered by youth voice.

Through poetry, students and community members will explore themes of self, identity and belief systems as they peel back the layers of who we are, how we see each other and why we sometimes make mean or hurtful choices.

Having invested in poetry as a means for sharing truths in community, this project could grow in many ways to bring more complex truths to public exchange.

Develop informed and integrated thinking – Strengthen civic engagement – Build self-direction – Create clear and effective communication

What is the recipe for human connection?

A Recipe for Connection brings young people and their community together to create a culture of care and nourishment—increasing empathy and strengthening our understanding and connection to each other through our shared experiences of food.

This project explores our connections to food through recipe-sharing, story-telling, harvesting, cooking, exploring the food knowledge of our elders, and creating space for our community to come together around food and gratitude in connection with those we don’t usually meet.

Students will have opportunities to explore their own traditions connected with food while learning about the experiences and food traditions of others within their community, and of the indigenous people that have lived on these lands for centuries.

The culminating activity will be a book of Recipes for Human Connection and an outdoor Friendsgiving.

Activities include field trips and gleaning trips to connect to the working landscape; sharing personal, family and community stories about food through student-led interviews; sharing of recipes—in school and at home—and documenting the process; creating “digital lunchboxes” in which students create and share short videos or digital presentations of a favorite family dish, with food storytelling; drawing food and creating invitation cards to send to community members to invite them to the outdoor Friendsgiving event; and creating a community book of ‘Recipes for Human Connection.’

Once established by this project, the celebration of bringing a wider community together around food could serve many different community purposes.

Creative and practical problem solving – Clear and effective communication – Self-direction – Responsible and informed citizenship

What can school become?

Students, teachers and community members will collaborate to develop a shared understanding of the power and privilege in schooling that will lead your community in developing a new understanding of the ‘game’ of school.

Students will create and implement a large-scale collaborative strategy game, played on a larger-than-life-size movable game board that is the map of their town, representing where, during remote schooling, students found learning (whether indoors, outdoors or remotely), and gameboard highlights of other important portals to learning.

Through interviews with peers, community members, teachers, administrators and school board members, students will build their understanding of how power, privilege and position can influence school decisions.

The culminating event offers all community members an opportunity to play the game and further their own understandings of who determines (and leads) the learning of our young people.

Students will decide on various constituents to be represented in the game and gather information to assign properties and abilities to the game pieces, which can be puppet-like sculptures or costumed characters that reflect status similar to how chess pieces do.

This community game idea can be used to investigate other important features of community life that young people want to learn about and contribute to changing.

Engage multiple Perspectives – Build empathy – Explore different points of view – Connect imaginative and realistic thinking and role playing – Manage one’s contributions within a group collaborative process

What power can be released at a turning point?

Students explore key turning points and adaptations during the past moths of COVID-19 and society’s awakening to racial justice to understand how our responses can lead to the positive transformation we want and need at this historic moment.

Students will map their journey over the past months with defining moments thought of as turning points. Working individually or in small groups, in school or at home, and using dramatic techniques such as puppetry, novel use of props, and improvisation, students will develop scenarios that demonstrate their turning point transformations.

A "community crawl" of different turning point stories, presented in outdoor spaces throughout the community, followed by a make-and-take space for the community to create and share their own artistic expressions of turning points they’ve recently experienced.

This project leads your community to become aware of how it has grown, or could grow, as a result of the challenges of the past months, and identifies actions that we can adopt to help each other during challenging times.

This student-community creative exchange could continue to grow, looking forward to the turning points they aspire to bring to life, and how they might do that.

Generate multiple ideas – Work with divergent thinking – Engage in scoping and scanning to reveal turning points – Identify key problems – Tapping personal experience

What do I want my community to become, and what is my role?

By reflecting on their own values and strengths, and through remote or socially distanced interviews with community members who are working on social change issues, students will formulate and express a vision of how they can personally contribute to their school and community in the year ahead.

After the interviews with community partners on a current social issue that resonates with them—such as climate change, racial justice and equity, the pandemic or schooling —students design creative portraits of the community partners, incorporating key words and phrases from the interviews with the partners’ image. Students also create their own self-portrait of their "highest self,” which incorporates words from their own values and strengths statements that express a vision of how they can contribute to their school and community in the year ahead.

The culminating event is an outdoor “gallery walk” where the self-portraits and portraits of community partners are displayed around town—which could be on lamp post banners, over-sized posters on sides of buildings, yard signs and in shop or home windows.

This project leads students to reclaim agency in presenting their identity within the school community; to inspire and be inspired by community members who are working to make social change; and to strengthen a culture of engagement and empowerment in the school and community.

Just imagine how this bold public statement of people’s aspirations could easily grow into a regular community project taking on different shared issues.

Self-assessing – Questioning – Taking on different roles – Collaborate effectively and respectfully – Generate ideas – Strengthen community life – Respect differing points of view

More Project Info
Click the image to view and download a PDF of the full Project Templates.
  • Essential Question
  • Project Description
  • Lasting Impact
  • Timeline
  • Resources/Materials
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Who's Who
Creative Project Think Tank
The Futures Projects were co-designed by this dynamic group of educators and teaching artists: 
Jenifer Aldrich / Principal / Albert Bridge School
Camille Anderson / Grades 3-4 Classroom Teacher / Thatcher Brook Primary School 
Andy Barker / Project Director / Burlington City & Lake Semester
Reeve Basom / Place-Based Education Coordinator / Center for an Agricultural Economy
Eric Booth / Project Design Lab & Community Engagement Lab Co-Director
Cat Buxton / Change Facilitator at Grow More, Waste Less
Anne Campbell / Education Director / Catamount Arts
Will Kasso Condry / Visual Teaching Artist
Keighan Chapman Eaker / Middle School Social Studies / Windsor School
Sarah Day / First Grade Teacher / Albert Bridge School
Alissa Faber / Visual Teaching Artist
Lizzy Fox / Poetry Teaching Artist
Paul Gambill 
/ Project Design Lab & Community Engagement Lab Co-Director
Ashley Hensel-Browning / Dance & Movement Teaching Artist
Evie Lovett / Photography & Media Arts Teaching Artist
MK Monley / Art Teacher / Thatcher Brook Primary School
Cindy Mosedale / Middle School STEAM / Newark Street School
Erin Maile O’Keefe / Movement Teaching Artist
Jen Olson / Work-Based Learning Coordinator / Hazen Union High School
Barbara Paulson / Puppet Theater Teaching Artist
Lindsay Pontius / Theater Teaching Artist
Matthew Perry / Visual Teaching Artist / Executive Director, Vermont Arts Exchange
Gowri Savoor / Visual Teaching Artist
Alexandra Turner / Visual Teaching Artist
Jamie Watkins / Filmmaking & Media Arts Teaching Artist 
Mary Wesley / Education and Media Specialist / Vermont Folklife Center