Back To School Providence

High school students deserve to feel seen, heard, and reflected within the walls of their school buildings. After a year of remote learning, the Inside Out Back to School welcomed them back into a space that will be theirs for the next one, two, three, or four years.

The IOP Team

In celebration of the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, the Inside Out Project and XQ brought the Photobooth truck to 7 high schools in the Providence Public School District throughout the week of September 20th! 

In preparation for the tour, our team had calls with teachers from each school and shared resources with them. The teachers then used the tools to introduce the Inside Out Project to their students and start a conversation. It was important to our team that these young people understand that the installation was for them and about them.

The Workshop

Both our team and the Rhode Island Department of Education wanted to find out what matters most to students and give them the opportunity to express themselves. Providence teachers helped us hear from the students by leading conversations in the classroom and asking questions such as: what fuels your love of school? What values are most important to you? And what do you look forward to this year? We found out that, when it comes to these young people’s education, they value mutual respect and the deep connections they have with their teacher and friends above all else.

What fuels your love of school?

In their answers, students stated that they like school because it allows them to be around friends, other students, and someone even mentioned enjoying being around their crush. Their favorite classes draw them to school, such as gym, art, and music, and they missed those activities during remote learning. 

What did you miss most about in-person learning?

Students were very appreciative of their teachers, valuing the knowledge they gained in the classroom. Students expressed how challenging learning without the hands-on support of their teachers was. As one high schooler wrote, it was difficult to not “be able to ask for help freely” and have their questions answered. Students disclosed that it was harder to focus and classes were less engaging. A student explained that they missed “the excitement that school gave (them)” and another described missing “the energy of the classroom.”

What do you hope to celebrate at the end of this school year?

Now that they are back in the classroom, students are looking forward to celebrating their hard work, good grades, and their community. The high schoolers were excited for the “step toward normality” that was returning to the classroom. Many conveyed happiness about being together again and getting back to their routines. One student shared the very difficult personal struggles they went through during the pandemic and their immense pride from completing the school year as an honor student.

What school value is most important to you?

Providence high schoolers believe in kindness as the most important value for their school community to adopt, followed by social engagement and equity. They are committed to their education and want to improve their schools. They desire more healthy food options and emphasize the need for mental health services. A student expressed wanting to learn subjects and skills that will set them up for adulthood while another argued that classes should help them plan their future, rather than focus on events of the past. 

What is the first thing you think of when you think "Education"?

It is clear that the young population of Providence is looking forward. For them, education relates to self-improvement, attending university, attaining their desired career, and opening doors to choices and opportunities. One student said that education serves to “better yourself and help you be more in life” and another that it allows them to “surpass the limitations society and others put upon (them).” Many seniors are excited to graduate in the spring.

How does it feel to have a giant portrait of yourself pasted on your school?

We ended our questionnaire by asking students about their encounters with the larger-than-life portraits of themselves. They were honest and replied that it definitely felt a little weird but was also cool and fun. The majority of the high schoolers described the experience as “special,” “awesome” and felt recognized in their community using art. The students admitted to giggling when seeing their portraits as they start their day on campus. We are proud of the students who stepped out of their comfort zone to participate. We hope that their Action will remind them of their bravery and the positive impact that they can create on the world

Inside Out Back to School in Providence was the first Education Photobooth tour that included our workshops and questionnaires. The Inside Out Team is so grateful for the warm welcome from schools and students. We were very excited to find out that the youth of Providence are incredibly aware of the world around them and are hungry for positive change.

Our Team works with teachers every day to help them create workshops in their classrooms. We look forward to visiting more schools and meeting more young future change-makers.