Common Ground High School
Common Ground High School
9–12th Grade
358 Springside Avenue
New Haven, CT 06515
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Joel Tolman
Project Director, Teaching Our Cities
(203) 389-4333

Common Ground High School

About Common Ground High School

Common Ground High School -- the nation's longest-running environmental charter school -- is committed to growing a new, more diverse generation of successful college students and powerful environmental leaders. Common Ground uses three sites as laboratories for learning: the urban farm that is the school’s campus, the natural environment of the adjacent West Rock Ridge State Park, and the urban setting of New Haven, Connecticut.  Close study of these places develops understanding of local and global issues. Through this study and core academic work, students experience a rigorous high school curriculum that prepares them for competitive colleges, meaningful careers, and purposeful lives.  

Common Ground High School is one part of a community non-profit, which also operates an urban farm and community environmental education center on 20 acres of city park land. 

About New Haven

Common Ground strives to use the City of New Haven as its classroom, and to build a school that's part of and responsive to that city. Our students come from every one of the city's neighborhoods, as well as from 14 surrounding town.  

Blog Posts

Teaching Our Cities & Schoolyards: Project-Based Learning In Action

  Robyn Stewart           May 30, 2022

What if urban public schools could mobilize their cities and schoolyards as classrooms – helping city students connect to their urban environments, master high academic standards, and grow into environmental stewards? Teaching our Cities and Schoolyards was a two-year project that aimed to do just that, with support from the EPA’s Environmental...

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Call for Staff & Student Teams: Teaching Our Cities Summer Design Institute, August 5 to 7, 2019

  Joel Tolman           June 14, 2019

Teaching Our Cities -- a network of urban public high schools with a shared focus on the environment and social justice -- is welcoming applications from teams of teachers, students, and others to join in a curriculum design institute, taking place August 5 to 7 at Common Ground High School in New Haven, Connecticut.  We are seeking: Teams of...

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City Schools Can Be Our Best Schools - When They Reclaim Their Urban Environments

  Joel Tolman           April 16, 2018

I am really excited to welcome you to Teaching Our Cities -- a web resource center dedicated to rooting urban public schools in their urban environments. I hope you'll explore this web site, and share it with others who care about city students and city schools. In a hundred different ways, urban public high schools can turn their backs on their...

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Students at the Center

  Joel Tolman           February 9, 2017

What happens when students sit at the center of conversations about improving their schools? Last Friday at Connecticut River Academy in Hartford, we found out. Twenty students from five urban public high schools sat down for a conversation about their schools. Two dozen teachers and school leaders perched and stood around the circle, leaning in...

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This activity gives 9th grade students at Common Ground High School the opportunity to interview the staff that make their school run -- part of a launch assignment where they are building their ideal schools, and a step along the way to... read more
When Common Ground students develop their leadership portfolios, they reflect on how critical experiences demonstrate their growing mastery of these environmental leadership standards. Teachers integrate these standards into course plans, as they... read more
This rubric is used to evaluate students' written portfolios (page 1) and their defenses (page 2). Each portfolio and defense is reviewed by three panelists. This rubric evolves year to year -- for instance, previous versions did not include... read more
Before seniors are cleared to present their senior defense, they need to get signed off on their written portfolio. This checklist is a tool for students and reviewers to be able to check that all components of the portfolio are included and... read more
Every Common Ground student develops their Environmental Leadership Portfolio over their four years as a student- reflecting on both their academic and out-of-class experiences and growth. This document maps out the timeline for student work from... read more
After seniors are signed off on their written Environmental Leadership Portfolio, students begin preparing for their senior defense which happens in the Spring. These defense guidelines are used as both an outline and rubric for developing and... read more
In a fishbowl conversation, a group of participants form a circle facing inward for a small group discussion. Listeners form another circle around the outside, listening in on the conversation. Fishbowls can function in a variety of ways. Because... read more
Analyzing this short excerpt from Silent Spring can help students develop skills for more effective and powerful nonfiction narratives. 
This checklist can be used as a reflection writing guide or a rubric for finished work by both students and reviewers to check that all the needed components of a written reflection are included in the final draft. Reflections must connect to the... read more
This portfolio was created by Nyasia Mercer, who graduated from Common Ground in 2016. Portfolio requirements have changed over time; in 2016, students' portfolios focused primarily on artifacts and reflections demonstrating students' growth as... read more
These excerpts from a student-produced magazine about fossil fuels, air pollution, and human health were created by students in Common Ground's biology course, taught by Kevin Sinusas. 
Each year, Common Ground seniors stand before an audience of peers, parents and staff to explain how they've grown into powerful leaders over their four years at Common Ground. This video gives a snapshot of how the portfolio defenses worked for... read more
This portfolio was created by Bismark Salazar, Class of '16, whose portfolio experience is featured in the video associated with this practice toolkit. Portfolio requirements have changed over time; in 2016, students' portfolios focused... read more
This excerpt from a student-produced magazine explains how pollution-induced asthma impacts human physiology.
This portfolio was created by Jalyn Johnson, who graduated from Common Ground in 2017. The 16-17 school year was the first year that Senior projects were included in the Environmental Leadership Portfolio and Defense. The 16-17 school year was also... read more
This excerpt from a student-written magazine describes how students work with actual and model lungs to understand the impact of air pollution on respiration.
Hear voices from students, sharing how their schools live up to their environmental and social justice missions, and where they come up short. 
In 2016, Common Ground High School received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to build capacity and teach skills in environmentally themed urban public high schools, through a program called Teaching Our Cities (TOC). TOC aims to... read more
This chart shows a menu of ways that students can demonstrate their understanding of the environmental and health impacts of energy production, their ability to communicate science visually and in writing, and their mastery of key science standards... read more