Real-World Learning at Frida Kahlo High School

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 at 3:05 pm
"Certain things capture your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart." ~Old Native American saying

Real-world learning allows students to learn skills they will use in the “real world” once they graduate. Big Picture Learning schools recognize that students have individual interests that, if honed, enhance their learning. In order to both develop these interests and learn “real-world” skills, students complete an internship as part of their studies.

“The projects students do serve two purposes. [Each] must be an authentic project that serves the internship site, and then will also be embedded with some academic learning that students need to demonstrate.”



Clarence Wells, a student at MetWest (a Big Picture Learning school in Oakland, CA), discusses the benefits of learning in the real world and the important skills gained as a result of his experiences.

Fostering Digital Youth Leaders
Last spring, students at another Big Picture school, Frida Kahlo High in South Los Angeles, met regularly as part of a personalized digital media program called “Day in the Life.” The Day in the Life Digital Narrative Project provided students with the opportunity to play the role of “mobile journalist,” using mobile devices and digital video production as tools to tell their story.

This spring, a new “Digital Youth Leaders” program, offered in collaboration with staff from the New Learning Institute and Alas Media, will give Frida Kahlo students an opportunity to apply the skills learned from Day in the Life to a real-world context — all the while giving back to their community. By collaborating with their peers and educators, the students will develop a digital media—based curriculum for nearby Nightingale Middle School.

Learning in the Real World
Through the Digital Youth Leaders program, Frida Kahlo’s students are able to learn experientially. Experiential learning, or “learning by doing,” refers to the concept that students can learn meaningfully through direct experiences. David A. Kolb’s experiential learning theory components (1976; 1981; 1984) map nicely to the Digital Youth Leaders program.

  • Concrete experience (or “DO”) — As interns, students will work in pairs and trios; each pair and trio will work with a designated teacher at Nightingale Middle School to design, plan, and implement a digital media—based project in his/her classroom. Student teams will continue to provide planning and technical support throughout the implementation stage of the program.
  • Reflective observation (or “OBSERVE”) — Frida Kahlo students will document their experience on the social learning network.
  • Abstract conceptualization (or “THINK”) — Students will conceptualize their experiences on the social learning network.
  • Active experimentation (or “PLAN”) — Interns and teachers will work together to implement the curriculum in the classroom. Frida Kahlo interns will provide technical support to Nightingale MS teachers and students.


For the students’ final projects, they will connect their learning to the world outside the classroom. When the program starts this spring, we will ask students to talk with us about their experiences.

Additional Resources on Real-World Learning: