Let 'Em Shine

Elevating PBL

The Back Story: In May of 2017 Albemarle County was awarded an LRNG Innovators grant sponsored through the National Writing Project and John Legend's Show Me Campaign. Let 'Em Shine was born. A year long PBL project for high school students that asked students to consider four central questions. Why do we have monuments? Whose stories have been told through the monuments in our community? Whose stories are missing and how do we want to memorialize them?

On a broader scale, the project served to transform PBL work in our division as interdisciplinary teachers from all three high schools collaborated to elevate student thinking, curiosity and creativity.

Why Let 'Em Shine?:

Contesting Confederates in Charlottesville: A Contemporary Debate, headlined the Huffington Post in April of 2016. The story sprang from a controversy in our community regarding a statue in a public park that honored Robert E. Lee and his confederate ideals. Parts of the community called for the statue’s removal, while others championed the status quo. The conflict remains unresolved and divides our community.

The Let ‘Em Shine project invites students to help unite the community by creating a symbolic “monument” that tells a broader story and honors our rich cultural history. The monument will be a collection of digital artifacts that showcase voices through virtual reality 360 movies, interactive apps, documentaries, original songs and lyrics, or other student-selected formats. Middle and high school students will collaborate with community leaders and corporate sponsors to conduct field and academic research as they design these artifacts.

On Oscar night, Viola Davis noted that the best stories were those that “exhumed and exalted the lives of ordinary people.” Let ‘em Shine aims to do just that. At its core, it’s about empowering students to influence change in their community as they unite to shine a light on the unknown figures in our history.