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Issue 13, Spring 2015
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Logs From San Diego Bay,
   Tom Fehrenbacher
Knowing Why,
   Joanne Sith
My Education at the Met,
   Luis Del Rosario
Rigor Reconsidered,
   Rob Riordan
10 Principles to Move Your School Toward Distributive Leadership,
   Nicole Assisi & Shelli Kurth
Inside a Successful School Project: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,
   Scott Swaaley
Getting More Students Into College: A Foray Into Improvement Science,
   Isaac Jones, Ryan Gallagher,
   Ben Daley & Stacey Caillier
After a Progressive K-12 Education...Then What? First Gen Voices on the Transition to College,
   Jean Kluver & Heather Lattimer

1: Who Am I?
2: Subatomic Black Hole Soup:
    A Graphic Novel Project

3: Run Like A Girl: Don’t Judge Me
4: Response-ABILITY: Empathy in Action
5: 2084: Junk Puppet Theatre
6: Once Upon A Prime
7: Town Squares:
    A San Diego Neighborhoods Project

8: A New Life
9: The Upcycle Project
10: What is your Everest?
11: Project IDEATE
12: Choose Your Own Adventure
      Through U.S. History

13: Apocalypto



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HTH GSE » UnBoxed » Issue 13 » Welcome

Cover created by Carly Lynch for the Response-ABILITY project.

Welcome to another issue of UnBoxed! We hope you will enjoy this collection of essays, reflections and reports about passion, purpose and practice in education.

Luis Del Rosario, a student at the Met School in Providence, Rhode Island, addressed the themes of passion and purpose at a Deeper Learning conference at High Tech High in April 2015. We present his keynote address in its entirely, followed by a brief commentary from Rob Riordan.

Three of our contributors offer lively accounts from the classroom. Joanne Sith, reflecting on her life as a history teacher, challenges teachers to link passion and purpose in the “why-based classroom.” Scott Swaaley deconstructs “Apocalypto,” a complex, integrated history/engineering project. Tom Fehrenbacher, in a moving tribute to the memory of longtime teaching partner Jay Vavra, describes the evolution of a years-long study of the flora, fauna, and history of the San Diego Bay. Both Swaaley and Fehrenbacher emphasize the value of teachers collaborating on projects that both employ and transcend traditional disciplinary lenses.
Students may develop significant experience and expertise as designers and collaborators in projects and on internships, but will they be prepared to succeed in college? In interviews with first-generation college students from High Tech High and other schools, Heather Lattimer and Jean Kluver find that the question of readiness may apply both to students and to colleges themselves: “Is the challenge that we need to prepare students to conform to the expectations of traditional higher education? Or do we need to work with higher education to rethink how to make learning relevant and accessible for an increasingly diverse student body?”

What is the impact of particular principles and practices on college success and other outcomes, and how do we get better at what we do? Isaac Jones, Ryan Gallagher, Ben Daley, and Stacy Caillier describe an ambitious attempt, now under way in High Tech High schools, to adapt and apply methods of “improvement science” that have proven successful in health care and other fields. Nicole Assisi and Shelli Kurth offer ten principles for distributive leadership that fosters shared purpose, autonomy, engagement, and reflective practice.

The UnBoxed cards in this issue offer glimpses of projects and practices that we find inspiring. These cards are freely available on our UnBoxed website in a printer-ready format. Simply print, fold, share and discuss. Each card refers the reader to a web address for further information.

We wish to thank the K-12, university and other educators who have reviewed our submissions for this issue and offered invaluable counsel. We invite all of our readers to join us in conversations about teaching, learning, design and leadership by submitting your thoughts for publication or serving as a peer reviewer. To learn more, visit

Our next submissions deadline is Oct 1, 2015

Read, enjoy, and participate!

—The Editors