San Diego City College photography lab
Students in San Diego City College’s photography lab learn how to edit different images.
Students in San Diego City College’s photography lab learn how to edit different images.

When it comes to shaping the successful futures of high school students, academic achievement is only one part of the equation. The other is teaching students how to become thoughtful, active members of their community.

Ingenuity Charter School – an independent study program that blends online learning with in-class instruction to serve underrepresented high schoolers – recognizes that community involvement and civic engagement are at the heart of shaping bright futures for their students.

To help students reach their full potential as engaged citizens, Ingenuity offers local field trips every six weeks, as well as one community volunteer opportunity each semester.

During the 2017-18 school year, field trip destinations so far have included the San Diego Safari Park, USS Midway Museum, San Diego City College, San Diego State University and California Institute of Art and Technology. Ingenuity is also scheduled to attend a play at the Old Globe Theatre, tour the Birch Aquarium and visit the San Diego Superior Court House in spring 2018.

Students touring San Diego City College
Students touring San Diego City College

“Students really enjoy all of the field trips because they take away with them new and unique experiences,” said Nicole Huerta, blended learning instructor at Ingenuity. “Field trips are a chance for them to engage with educational topics in a hands-on way.”

As a result, Ingenuity’s students get the chance to socialize with their peers and instructors and venture out into the community in ways they haven’t yet experienced.

This kind of hands-on interaction is particularly important in an independent study program like Ingenuity’s, where students complete the majority of their studies online via a self-determined schedule that works with their individual life and employment obligations.

Field Trips & Volunteering As A Bridge To The Community

The excitement Ingenuity students feel about these community event opportunities is clear: while their attendance is not required, each scheduled field trip and/or volunteer event has a student sign-up roster that is between 75% and 100% full.

“In regard to volunteering, this past semester, students had the opportunity to partner with Feeding San Diego,” said Huerta. Students volunteered their time by bagging oranges to be distributed to local families in need.

“When I asked what their favorite part about volunteering was, students responded that it felt good to be able to help other people in need during the holidays,” said Huerta. “They also enjoyed being able to work together for one greater cause.”

Through volunteering, students also learn how to collaborate and problem-solve with their peers – critical skills they will need to master for their post-high school lives.

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As far as field trips are concerned, perhaps one of the students’ most anticipated events of this school year was the chance to see “The Importance of Being Earnest” at The Old Globe Theatre in February 2018.

To give students some context and background information before seeing Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece published nearly 125 years ago, Ingenuity welcomed to their classroom Jake Millgard, an educator from The Old Globe.

Millgard led an in-classroom, pre-performance workshop designed to enhance the theatre-going experience for students.

“During the workshop, Jake spoke with the students about the play and what to expect when attending The Old Globe,” said Stephanie Hall, Resource Specialist at Ingenuity. The students also had the opportunity to participate in different drama activities, like practicing lines from the play with one another and becoming familiar with early 20th century etiquette.

Expanding Possibilities And Opportunities

Although students are not required to complete any assignments in conjunction with the field trips or volunteer events, that does not prevent them from doing some more digging on their own.

Student field trip at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Students witness conservation in action at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“I can tell that the students are really engaging at these events when they are asking thoughtful questions and then doing research when they return to the classroom,” said Huerta.

For example, after the California Institute of Art and Technology field trip, one student felt inspired by a career in technology — in particular, cyber security and computer programming.

“The field trip opened his eyes to the available careers out there even if he doesn’t necessarily attend that school,” said Huerta. “He researched the careers in depth, on his own, and asked me to help him find other schools so he could compare programs and cost.”

Students ride the tram at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Students witness conservation in action at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

For this reason, Ingenuity makes an effort to plan all of its field trips around the students’ post-high school interests and career interests. Some of the most popular career choices are computer science/IT, teaching, nursing and the arts – including acting, video game design and music production.

When students understand how they as individuals have the power to influence their community, they learn that they can be agents of change in their own lives, as well. The opportunity for Ingenuity students to connect with others through community events also gives them the chance to connect with themselves – leading them to inspired, confident futures.

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