High school gets students working

Posted February 7, 2010 11:08 a.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2010 11:41 a.m. EST

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, shows a San Francisco high school that puts students in the work force so they can learn.

Students from across the city attend the Build San Francisco Institute, a partnership between the San Francisco Unified School District and the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco.

Senior Just Marks spends two afternoons a week as an intern at one of the city's top architectural firms.

"I'm pretty much an assistant architect," Marks said. "I get to see everything an architect has to do, has to go through, has to deal with."

The other three afternoons of the school week he joins other students in doing projects at the Build San Francisco Institute. The projects satisfy core curriculum requirements.

For example, sophomores were designing a performance space on a 3,000-square-foot lot, while seniors were taking part in a public art project for a restored pier.

"I give them the materials, and they do the research. They do the uncovering of their own curriculum," instructor Casey Brennan said. "The kids take ownership of their education, and it becomes more meaningful to them."

Architect Richard Hannum created the institute after becoming disenchanted with his son's experience in a public high school.

"If you find the current situation to be unacceptable intellectually with what we're doing with children as a nation, then you have to actively make change," Hannum said.

"To have found something that has the level of impact this has on children that's really so easy to do is fantastic," he added.