Summer Camp Day Five: Telling the Truth

I’m genuinely flummoxed. 

Five days into the 2015 SoundOut Summer Camp at Cleveland High School, I have covered half of the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum, including some rewritten sections and new content. I’ve tested ideas and wrestled with content, and thought I’ve gotten through the deepest, meatiest content in the camp. From here, I expected that we’d go storming ahead into action, learning and testing out and otherwise moving forward on evaluating, planning, teaching, researching, decision-making and advocating, just like my research and past experiences with this curriculum have done.

Do you ever get to that place where you just don’t know what to do? Today I did! Just an hour into camp, I discovered that my students are hungrier and deeper than I’d anticipated. Doing a mini-lecture on the structure of the education system, I tried to detail how does what, and how they all fall together to make sense in schools.

The students asked harder questions.

“Who hires teachers?”

“How is that democratic?”

“What’s the option to top-down control?”

“Why should our parents or neighbors or whoever care who is elected to the school board?”


In the years I’ve been facilitating this curriculum, I have never run into the depth and poignancy of these students’ questions. Powerfully connected to their families, communities, and cultures, they showed me a side of student engagement I’d never seen before.

I quickly jumped into explaining, then sent them on a quest to explore, examine and critique on their own. Without feeling hemmed in by my own expectations, I suddenly felt free to let them be and do on their own. The program was out of my hands!

At the end of the day, I’m flummoxed because I don’t know what Monday will bring. With five more days of camp left, students move towards taking action. They are supposed to crack open the action planning guides and make deep plans that allow themselves and encourage others to see the power, potential and purpose of students transforming schools.

We’ll see what comes then! In the meantime, let me know where you think we should go next in this grand adventure towards educational transformation! WOOHOO!


Summer Camp Day Four: Reform or Transform?

Taking the bull by the horns, on the forth day of SoundOut Summer Camp students grappled with the difference between reforming schools and transforming education. Throughout the day, they were virtually bombarded with teambuilding and communication games, asked repeatedly to identify for themselves what works in schools and what should change while in the next breath they watch videos about what other students want to change in schools.

Taking a step from the more organized projects around the world, we watched videos from:


We also studied the history of student involvement, student voice and student power movements throughout history. I coupled the powerful new book, Teenage Rebelswith historic books like Student Power, Participation and Revolution and the awesome book Student Power. In the course of those books, students found stories about their city of Seattle from the 60s through the 80s, as well as stories about students of color they could relate to.

The question of reforming schools or transforming schools was central to the day. Constantly reminded of the importance of that issue, they asked each other where their school was at, what they’d seen and experienced before, and where they saw schools going in the future. The students pulled no punches, identifying that a lot of innovative practices sounded like things their white, middle and upper class peers around the city would experience before they would. They also said schools might change fast in other places, but their own schools seemed stuck in the past sometimes.

It was an enlightening day for me as a facilitator and writer, since these students were on the cusp of a new place I want to go in this work. Let’s see what time continues to share!


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Summer Camp Day Three: What Can Students Do?

To begin day three of the SoundOut Summer Camp, I asked students to write down every single question they could focused on schools. Of the twenty students there, I received at least ten questions from each one. It was the page with forty-five questions that surprised me. However, one question stood out from the rest in my eyes:

Why do schools obfuscate so much from students?

As these learners scoured through evidence of education reform from the last 50 years, I had them pour over reports, studying guides and tales of student involvement, voice, engagement and empowerment. They wrestled with the structure of schools, and watched as students around the world showed them what Meaningful Student Involvement can look like. We watched examples of:


After exploring these activities, students grappled with the meaning of meaningfulness from their own perspectives. They had conversations about several questions, including:

  • What makes something meaningful to you?
  • Can something be meaningful in schools?
  • Why does Meaningful Student Involvement matter?


From this vantage point, students revisited the question about the purpose of school, as well as the hidden curriculum of education.

//, towards the end of the day they began exploring other schools’ applications of Meaningful Student Involvement, student voice, student engagement and student/adult partnerships. In this time period their learning began coming together from three days. They started connecting meaningfulness with the topic of education reform; classroom learning with school board decision-making.

In our next steps, we’ll explore the different elements of Meaningful Student Involvement. We’ll also examine examples in-depth and continue connecting the broad issues surrounding taking action.


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Summer Camp Day One: What Is Student Voice?

The SoundOut Summer Camp began on Monday, August 3rd. Hosted by Cleveland High School in south Seattle, the school is home to the twenty students who are attending camp. Tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades are all represented, with twelve girls and eight boys total.

On day one of camp, we focus on exploring the question, “What is student voice?” A seemingly simple query, this quickly expands into other questions too. “What is learning”, “What is teaching”, “Who are students”, “What is school for” and “Why listen” are all thrown out during the day.

Students spend a lot of time today in large group work, making room for each other through teambuilding activities and other group work. At the beginning of the day, there is a lot of hemming and hawing, but by the middle of the day one of the students says, “I’ve done these games and others like them before, but I never knew they could have so much purpose.” I focus the students on finding the metaphor of the games and drawing out a higher meaning, and it works sometimes.

As the first day comes to a conclusion, there’s a general sense of purpose and possibility within the group. Some students express great hope for their schooling, while others seem blasè about what’s happening. A few are actually forlorn. I want to still hope without it being false; with gentrification, white privilege and the hidden curriculum on the table, that could be an uphill struggle.

On the door into the classroom, the regular teacher has a placard that says, “Life is a beautiful struggle.” Today, students walk away after saying as a group, “School is a beautiful struggle.” Tomorrow, we’ll unpack why.

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Students as Teachers Reflection Questions

Engaging students as teachers can be challenging, especially when educators are already overworked and under-resourced. Following are some reflection questions developed by Anastacia Brie and Grace O’Keeffe of the Hudson High School of Learning Technologies in New York City, New York.

Reflection Questions

  • What responsibilities do you hand over to students?
  • How do you monitor the student’s achievements when they are teaching?
  • When can teachers foster students taking responsibility for teaching?
  • In what context are students going to be effective teachers?
  • What are the benefits and challenges?
  • Do students as teachers approaches have wide-spread applications across the curriculum?
  • How can these approaches be adapted to fit teachers and students schedules?
  • How do we measure the success of students as teachers in the data-driven environment of education?
  • In heterogeneous groups, can students who aren’t from the same group be effective teachers?
  • How can we extend successful teaching by students across the classroom?
  • Can engaging students as teachers affect classroom teaching in general?


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Student Voice Reflection Activities



Taking action, making change, experiencing new adventures… these are awesome reasons to get out and do something. But the richness of the experience, the learning from the experience, these are equally important if we are going to transform society through action. Reflection is integral to learning, because it helps us build self-awareness, strengthen personal and team growth, and improves our action for the next time.

In age, race, gender, and culturally diverse groups of participants, reflection activities should mirror the differences in the group. These activities may do that, or spur your own creative thinking to create new ones. There are many different ways that people experience and learn from the same situations.

Keep in mind these different learning styles:

  • Linguistic Learners – Like to read, write and tell stories
  • Interpersonal Learners – Like to have lots of friends, join and talk in groups
  • Intra-personal Learners – Like to work alone and pursue own interests
  • Spatial Learners – Like to draw, create, daydream and see pictures
  • Musical Learners – Like to sing, hum tunes, listen and respond to music
  • Bodily/ Kinesthetic Learners – Like to move, touch, talk and use body language
  • Logical/ Mathematic Learners – Like to do experiments, figure things out, asks questions and look for patterns and relationship



  1. Emotional Go-Around – Participants are asked to show with a word, their body, or a facial expression how they feel right at the moment. Let people show their reaction, one at a time, and then have participants explain their reaction. This activity can give the facilitator a sense of the group mood and gives the participants a chance to express how they feel at that moment.
  2. Show and Tell – Individually or in pairs, have participants describe items they have collected or used throughout their action, including their reactions and emotions regarding the item or the activity it was used in.
  3. Human Sculpture – In a large open space, divide your group into two halves. Each half creates a sculpture around a word or phrase (e.g. peace, activism, empowerment) with few props. Then each group displays its ‘art’ for the other group. The watching group can interpret the sculpture, without disruption, for two minutes. When they are finished, the sculpture group can explain its work.
  4. Engagement Skits – Split the participants into groups of three or four and ask each group to portray their service experience through a skit. Give each group 10 minutes to plan what they will do and up to five minutes to share their skit with the rest of the group. After each group’s presentation, have the whole group process reactions, give suggestions for effective future projects, and give positive feedback to the actor/actresses. This activity could take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
  5. Visualization – Take participants on an imaginary tour of their experience. Ask them to find a comfortable position (lay on the floor, rest your head on the table, lounge in a chair) and close eyes. Play relaxing music at a low volume. Ask participants to become aware of their breathing, ask them to leave their present thoughts and clear their minds. Once the participants appear to have relaxed, ask them to begin remembering their service experience. To assist them in remembering their experience mention common events, allow participants to remember how they felt before they did their experience, what their expectations were, what happened in their preparation, how they felt during their service experience. To stimulate their thinking you might mention some of what you remembered. Slowly bring them back to the present. Ask them to become aware of their surroundings, again concentrating on their breathing, and open their eyes when they are ready. Ensure that a quiet tone is maintained. Continue to play music, and ask participants to share their recollections with another person and finally have people make comments to the whole group.
  6. Group Banners – Using a large pieces of banner paper and markers, ask participants to get into pairs and depict their experiences using a combination of words and pictures. Give them about 10-15 minutes. When completed ask each pair to share their banner with the whole group. Use their banners as a jumping off point for processing the experience.
  7. All Tied Up – Have the group stand in a circle. Holding the end of a ball of string, hand the ball off to a participant. Ask them to reflect on a particular question (e.g. what was something new you learned today?). Once they have answered the question ask them to hold onto their piece of the string and to pass the ball onto someone else. Continue the process until everyone has reflected on the question, and has a section of string in their hands. When completed, you should have something that looks like a web. When they are all done talking, make some points about the interconnectedness of people, how they are all part of the solution, for if one person had not contributed to their service projects the outcome would have been different, etc.
  8. Imagining the Future – Ask participants to imagine that the year is 2020, and everyone in the group has come back together for a reunion. As a group, reflect on all of the changes that have happened because of the action you have finished, and the difference that work has made on your life.
  9. Graffiti Museum – Glue a wide variety of magazine pictures on construction paper, and post them down a hallway wall. Have participants look through all of the pictures, and chose one that represents their impression of the previous event (e.g. an activity, the day, or the whole weekend). Gathering in a circle, have participants quietly circulate the pictures, and write why they do or do not relate with the picture.
  10. Service Journals – Ask participants to keep a journal of their conference experience through regular (after each activity) entries. Provide framework for the journals (e.g. who will read it, what should they write about, how it will be used). Variations on the Activity: Journaling includes team journaling, and circle journals. You can also provide particular questions to respond to, and use hot topics from activities to reflect on. You may ask participants to reflect on conference topics, including quotations and readings from authors, music groups, etc.
  11. Stream of Consciousness – After lying down, relaxing and allowing their minds to wander, encourage participants to begin free word association around their experience. Guide participants through the process by offering refocusing words, but allow them to say what comes to their minds, without censor or restriction.
  12. Collage of Words – Using a large sheet of paper, have participants write words that described their experience. Provide plenty of creative material (e.g. markers, crayons, colored pencils) and a large sheet of paper on a smooth surface. Give them twenty minutes, and have them explain their work when they’re finished. Explain how without everyone’s contributions, the work would not be as rich and varied as it is.
  13. Action Interviews – Encourage participants to see their projects through the public’s view by conducting media-style interviews with one another. Remember to cover all the bases: who, what, when, where, why and how, or go Oprah and ask the hard-hitting questions!
  14. Rap and Rhyme Responses – Divide participants into small teams, and give them 10 minutes to write a rap or rhyme about their experience. The teams must incorporate all of their members into the production.
  15. Group Poem Writing – Like a circle journal, this will bring your group together in a reflection on their service. Circulate a piece of paper around your group with the title across the top “For Love of Engagement”, encouraging each participant to write a line in response to the previous until everyone has written. When finished, have a volunteer read the work to the entire group, and then discuss it.
  16. Time Capsule – As participants are being introduced to your event, have them put memorabilia and initial attitudes related to their action on paper to start the time capsule. This could include a short project description, an agenda for your event or activity, or anything else relevant to what is going on. Have participants write down how they are feeling at the start of the event, how they feel at different points of their actions (e.g. what they expected at the beginning, how they felt before their action, what they feel/felt (before, during or after) their project as a whole.) Put everything into a “capsule” that will be opened and read aloud and discussed (perhaps anonymously) at the end of the event.
  17. Compile Questions Left Unanswered – In pairs, ask participants to write down any question they feel is unanswered from the activity you just completed. Encourage them to ask anything, and then report their questions to the large group. Refrain discussion until all the questions are read, but then allow for an open exchange between participants.


SoundOut Facilitates Workshops... Contact us to learn more!
SoundOut facilitates workshops on reflection! To learn more contact us!

Workshop Outlines

All this and more is covered in the time-tested, student-approved SoundOut Workshop Guide for Student/Adult Partnerships!

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Creating Action Between Students and Adults


Introduction: Activity for 8-40 students and/or adults

Goal: When this session is complete, participants should be able to…

  • Simulate the challenges of planning a project
  • Have a group examine how they function under pressure

Time: 40 minutes

Materials: Long rope

Space: Outdoors, with some variation in terrain

Considerations: This activity has the potential to cause great strife within a group as it involves functioning—or, more accurately, dysfunctional, under both pressure and physical strain. You will want to debrief the activity carefully if strife is evident. Also be prepared for possible anger directed at you as a facilitator. With all that said, this activity is an excellent metaphor for how a project comes together and the difficulties encountered.




  1. Explain to the group that this activity involves screeching together in tight quarters. Anyone who feels uncomfortable participating (due to claustrophobia, twisted ankle, whatever) can coach from the sidelines.
  1. Ask the group to stand in a circle. Tell participants to take a big step forward, then another, then another. Keep ding this until there is no circle. Instead, you should have one big mass of loosely packed people.
  1. Take the rope and wrap it around the group. Make sure ahead of time that the rope is cleared of tangles and will wrap without you having to clear it.
  1. Pace out for them (briskly walk through, explaining as you go) a short but mildly challenging course that should involve at least having to navigate a couple steps or a one-to-two foot wall, going around a tree or bush and maybe under a pole, all depending on the terrain you have to work with.
  1. Explain that their task is two-part: To travel through the course while finding out something new about a person they are standing near. Any questions? Ready? Go!
  1. Pay attention to what they do and how they do it. What kinds of roles do people take on? What sort of conflict arises? What attitudes and emotions are surfacing?
  1. When the group is finished, let them celebrate their success (or anger, or frustration), then debrief?
    • How did it go? What happened? What was it like? [ask for reactions from people in the front, middle, back]?
    • How did people feel? [Again, ask for reactions from the front, middle, and back.]
    • What worked? What didn’t work?

NOTE: Call any specific behaviors to attention and ask what was going on.

  • Did you have a plan? Was everyone included in the plan?
  • How many people were able to find out something new about someone near them?
  1. At this point you should have received enough input form the group to make a couple points. Generally, the people in the front of the group just take off and then get frustrated because the people behind the aren’t moving fast enough. The people tin the middle will notice the people in the front are going and decide that they had better start moving, too (although they aren’t really sure what’s going on). Meanwhile, the people in the back have the rope digging into them and are calling for people to slow down (calls which usually go unheeded). Ask if anyone has had the experience of being in a group where they were in the “back or in the “middle.” What’s it like? Also. If not many people were able to find out something new about someone near the, ask why. Often a group will lose track of part of what it se out to do when things start getting crazy.The dynamics of this activity are rich. Make sure you have enough time to debrief and use whatever happens in the group to shape the questions you ask.
  • What would you do differently if you were to do this again?Usually people will say, “plan!” Make the point that in a group that’s often the first thing to be avoided. Ask them to think about how they will make sure that people in the “front” hear what people in the ‘back” are saying. Remind them that participation of the whole group is needed. Keeping this activity in mind, how can they ensure their whole group is involved as they work together?


SoundOut Facilitates Workshops... Contact us to learn more!

Workshop Outlines

All this and more is covered in the time-tested, student-approved SoundOut Workshop Guide for Student/Adult Partnerships!

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SoundOut Program Teaching Students How to Improve Schools With Student Voice (360) 489-9580
Learn more about the SoundOut Program Teaching Students How to Improve Schools With Student Voice.


Lesson Plan on Trust Circles

Faciliator Notes

Introduction: Lesson plan for 8-40 students and adult participants

Goal: When this session is complete, participants should be able to…

  • Build trust among group members in a relatively low-risk environment

Time: 30 minutes

Materials: None

Space: Enough for group to stand in a circle.

Considerations: This lesson plan may sound easy, but many people have strong reaction to the simple act of walking forward with their eyes closed. Depriving yourself of sight demands that you put trust in other members of the group. This exercise prepares group members for more high-risk trust building activities.


  1. Have group stand in a loose circle, about an arm’s length between each person.
  2. Instruct participants: One at a time, each one of will walk cross the circle—with your eyes closed. Once across the circle, the two closest people will gently stop you by placing their hands on your shoulders, turn you around and send you across the circle again. You will cross again, be turned again and this time, when you reach the other side, open your eyes and rejoin the circle. One at a time, every person will cross the circle three times. There is to be complete silence in the group until everyone has gone.
  3. Facilitator: Demonstrate the process for the group.
  4. One at a time, everyone in the group takes a turn.
  5. Once everyone has completed the lesson, ask the group:
    • How did this activity feel?
    • Was it tougher than you expected?
    • What was the hardest thing? The most surprising?
    • What did you learn by taking the walk?

What did you learn by observing others?

SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans
SoundOut Facilitates Workshops... Contact us to learn more!

These lesson plans were created by Adam F.C. Fletcher for SoundOut under contract from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. All contents ©2007 SoundOut. Permission to use is granted exclusively for nonprofit and in-school education purposes only. All Rights Reserved.

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Student Voice Brainteaser Activities


Keep the pace of lessons up-beat and energetic with these challenging mind games! All of these activities are fun, although they can be a bit frustrating at times for participants. More importantly, they can serve as great metaphors during lessons to keep participants thinking. They can be fillers before you start, during break times, or after you end. There’s only one rule – you can’t tell the answers. Remember the adage, “Knowledge is earned – not given.” Try to memorize your favorite mind twist, and go without these notes. Good luck!


1. Activities Going Camping – Start by saying, “We’re going camping this weekend! The thing is though that we can only bring along particular items. It’s kind of a crazy camping trip!” Then, say one thing at a time, letting people think about each one. “We can bring a dog, but not its dog food… an elephant, but not a canary… an end table, not a lamp. . .” you add more.

Answer: Things with four legs can go camping; anything else can’t.

2. Silly Sally – Begin with, “I’ve got this crazy friend named Silly Sally. You see, she only likes certain things, very particular things. Let me tell you about her.” Then slowly start listing off what Silly Sally likes… “She likes apples, but not bananas… spaghetti, but not the sauce… Seattle, not Olympia… troops, not packs… Jeeps, not Fords… Bill, not Tom… the roof, but not the ceiling… the floor, but not the carpet…”

Answer: Silly Sally likes things with double letters!

3. Crossed or Uncrossed – Holding up two sticks, announce that you want the group to guess “Are these crossed or uncrossed?” As they guess you confirm or deny that they are crossed or uncrossed. You pass the sticks to the next guy, and he asks “Crossed, or uncrossed?” Go around the entire circle until everyone says “Oh, yeah, now I get it!” I like to say, “Remember, the answer isn’t always in the most obvious solution.”

Answer: The answer isn’t in the sticks, but the legs of the person asking “Crossed, or uncrossed?” Are they sitting with their legs crossed or uncrossed?

4. Ancient Counting Sticks – Hold up three sticks in the air, and announce that they are the ancient counting sticks of Zoogoobawgooland. “These three sticks will be conformed in such a way that will represent a number.” Then lay the three sticks on the ground in a unique way.

Answer: Show the number you wish to represent with your fingers. Put your hand someplace not too obvious… Keep having the participants guess, and keep changing the number and stick layout. Use both hands, making numbers up to 10. As you progress, keep making gestures more obvious as you go along.

SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans
SoundOut Facilitates Workshops... Contact us to learn more!

These lesson plans were created by Adam F.C. Fletcher for SoundOut under contract from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. All contents ©2007 SoundOut. Permission to use is granted exclusively for nonprofit and in-school education purposes only. All Rights Reserved.

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Lesson plans Workshops

Lesson Plan on Creating Roles for Students and Adults


This is a lesson plan on creating roles for students and adults to support Meaningful Student Involvement.


This inquiry-based lesson plan requires a group of 4-40 students and adults. This activity was adapted from Youth Empowerment: A Training Guide (1990) created by CampFire, Inc.


When this session is complete, participants should be able to…

  • Provide the opportunity to carefully think through how to involve students in programs.
  • Deepen understanding of the work and commitment required for effective Student-Adult Partnerships


90 minutes


Flip chart paper and markers; copies of the worksheets from the end of this workshop.


Enough to accommodate the group


While not necessary, it is helpful if participants have first completed Exploring Group Strengths and Weaknesses and Students and Adults as Ideal Partners, both located in this section. Greater knowledge of individual strengths and interests, as well as what is needed to be an effective partner, helps to ground this activity in reality.


1. Split the group into groups of about 5 people each, depending on size of group. Groups should be mixed students and adults. Half the groups will work on roles for adults; the other half on roles for students.

2. Hand out the appropriate worksheet to each group. Have participants work in their groups to complete them.

3. Groups report back on the roles they developed. Allow for questions and comments.

4. Close with a discussion, including:

  • What was it like to create these roles?
  • How realistic do you think the descriptions are? Why or why not?
  • How might you apply these job descriptions to your work together?

Worksheet: Defining the Role of a Student

Describe the role for students.

Answer the following questions about the opportunity:

  1. Is this a real job? What is its usefulness to the class or school?
  2. Will this position lead someone to greater responsibility in the class or school?
  3. Is adequate support and supervision available from the staff? Do staff know how to supervise?
  4. What skills, training, experience, and knowledge will students gain from this opportunity?

Answer the following questions about possible candidates for this opportunity:

  1. Who will really want to fill this role? Is this work that is of interest or value to some students? Why?
  2. What knowledge, skills and attitudes are necessary to succeed in this role?
  3. How can you adjust the work schedule, quantity of work accomplished, quality of work accomplished, nature of training, responsibility for others, degree and kind of supervision, formal reporting requirements, and other parts of the opportunity so that more students might qualify?

Worksheet: Defining the Role of an Adult

Describe Opportunity Here:

Answer the following questions about the opportunity:

  1. Specifically what will this person need to do to make Student-Adult Partnerships work?
  2. How is this different from existing opportunities in the class or school?
  3. What kind of resources (time, training, other) will the person need in order to be successful?

Answer the following questions about possible candidates for the opportunity:

  1. What knowledge, skills attitudes, and other qualifications are necessary to succeed at this role?
  2. How could you determine if someone was suited for this role?

SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans
SoundOut Facilitates Workshops... Contact us to learn more!

These lesson plans were created by Adam F.C. Fletcher for SoundOut under contract from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. All contents ©2007 SoundOut. Permission to use is granted exclusively for nonprofit and in-school education purposes only. All Rights Reserved.

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