Teaching Our Cities: The Project

Teaching Our Cities is rooted in the belief that schools learn best from other schools -- that, working together with peer educators, we can create urban public high schools that help our students grow into powerful environmental leaders and successful college students. 

We are putting this belief to the test. In 2015-16, Teaching Our Cities brought together educators from urban public high schools across the region and the country for a series of day-long Learning Exchanges — on topics from City Math to Student Projects for Social Justice. This work was made possible in part by support from the Gould Foundation. 

In fall 2016, six urban environmental public high schools across the Northeast United States launched a two-year collaboration – building our capacity to mobilize the urban environment as a learning laboratory, create urban public schools that are responsive to our cities, and grow a new, more diverse generation of environmental and community leaders. These six schools built a community of practice – supporting each other as we build our schools’ capacity, and as we document and share our school’s practices. With support from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Teaching Our Cities partner schools:

  • Created a team of 4-8 individuals – teachers, school leaders, students, community partners and other stakeholders – who will lead the school’s participation in the project.
  • Planned and executed a year-long capacity-building project – focused on a tackling a significant challenge facing your school, directly related to your school’s urban environmental theme or mission.
  • Identified and documented effective practices related to teaching the urban environment and growing a new generation of environmental leaders – creating videos, curricular tools, blog-style reflections, and practice descriptions to be shared on the Teaching Our Cities web platform.
  • Joined in six day-long, face-to face learning exchanges, each one hosted by a different partner school.
  • Shared lessons learned and practices documented through Teaching Our Cities with other schools and educators.

In 2017, an evaluation by Rupu Gupta, Shuli Rank, and Nezam Ardalan from NewKnowledge (now Knology) found that the Teaching Our Cities community of practice was having an immediate and lasting impact on the participating schools. At Common Ground and our partner schools, we saw this value first hand -- in the formed of deepened connections, improved practices, and evidence of increased environmental leadership capacity among our students. Between 2017 and 2019, with support from the Barr Foundation's Catalyze New Models grant program, the Teaching Our Cities community of practice continued to meet, share practices, and build capacity.

In 2019, a new grant from the EPA's Environmental Education grant program allowed Teaching Our Cities to partner with Common Ground's Schoolyards Program. Together, we brought together 10 urban public schools, grades K-12, for two years of work to develop projects and performance tasks rooted in urban environmental issues, helping students master high academic standards and grow into powerful envrionmental stewards. In 2022, we published the results of this latest phase of work on the Teaching Our Cities web site.