mission and history
Urban Workshop NYC offers a rigorous academic alternative for at-risk high school students, centered around community construction projects.
Urban Workshop NYC provides students with an opportunity to engage in rigorous academic learning in an applied setting.  Through carefully connected studies in math, literature, and writing, students in the program learn to plan, design and carry out construction projects in various New York City communities.  In this integrated learning process, they
•    make tangible, real-world connections with their academic learning
•    develop practical skills and a sense of craft
•    connect with community members in various New York City neighborhoods and serve their needs
•    understand issues of environmental, economic and social justice facing New York City communities
•    build teamwork and leadership skills
•    gain a clear sense of accomplishment
The program helps students develop the skills, understanding and confidence they need to earn a high school diploma and succeed in the future.
From 2001 to 2008, we all taught together at the Institute for Collaborative Education (I.C.E.), a small, alternative, public school in Manhattan for grades 6-12.  When we first piloted Urban Workshop at ICE in 2007, we wanted to integrate the elements of an I.C.E. education that we value so passionately:
•    “habits of mind” centered around critical thinking and problem-solving
•    essential skills and understanding
•    creative exploration
•    curiosity, openness and love of learning
Meanwhile, we found that schools – even small, highly supportive schools – do not work well for many students.  As caring and hard-working teachers, we struggled to figure out why students disengage from school, and identified certain aspects of school that often turn students off, especially in high school:
•    emphasis on individual achievement and grades above group goals
•    fragmentation of ideas taught out of context
•    physical frustration of sitting at desks six hours a day and following a mechanical schedule
•    producing work without seeing the purpose
From 2006 to 2008, we led ICE high school students on an annual, week-long trip to New Orleans to help rebuild the city after hurricane Katrina.  As our extremely diverse group of students gutted homes one year, and rebuilt others the next year, every student displayed a depth of motivation, hard work and pride rarely seen in the school environment.  We began discussing aspects of the trip that brought out this powerful work ethic:
•    belonging to a team that worked toward coherent, tangible group goals
•    satisfaction of helping others and feeling needed, valued and appreciated
•    exhausting brains-and-brawn satisfaction of physical labor
In Urban Workshop NYC, we aim to join the analytical depth of school academics with the urgency and immediacy of community construction projects.
home projects the program about us donate