“My classroom experience tells me that this early research exposure helps students be successful once they get to a place like UNC, Chapel Hill. Otherwise, they have no idea what it means to be at a ‘research university’…. Doing is so much more exciting than observing! And there is nothing that creates an appreciation for research like doing it”
Professor Phillip Morgan, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tools For Change develops our nation's diverse talent pool by teaching high school students how to think and problem solve like our best college students. The idea behind Tools is that the best way to prepare diverse and talented high school students for college success is to teach them the skills and mindsets that are most sought after by college/university faculty.
Inspired by the Honors program in Sociology at Duke University that Dr. Tobin developed and co-directed, Tools introduces students to the social science research method and teaches them to use this method to solve community problems. The seminar grows young people who not only possess disciplined analytical and interpretive skills, as well as empathy and wisdom, but can bring these traits to bear on local challenges that have national and global dimensions. The focus of Tools is not to transmit or knowledge, but instead to teach a style for engaging the world so that new and existing knowledge and data can be productively organized, analyzed and used. (The Common Core learning shifts are organically embedded in the curriculum.) Since diverse perspectives generate the most creative and effective community solutions and problem solving requires more character than content knowledge Tools is designed for all students.
The seminar has been successful with a variety of students from migrant and urban youth in Dublin, Ireland to metropolitan students in Rye Town, New York to Black students in rural Halifax County, NC.
The seminar in Rye Town, New York is a model public-private partnership and is developed over years of careful relationship building. The program brings together students and teachers, parents, and school board members from three school districts. The community challenges that are the focus of the program and the grass roots methods of data collection create synergies that connect individuals, and organizations such as the NAACP, The League of Women Voters and others, and county and municipal government across the communities. Similarly, the program draws its funding from local government, community organizations, business, and private individuals. This past spring the research team produced a data based report (with policy recommendations) that examined how community organizations addressed hunger in today’s challenging environment.
The seminar at Roanoke Valley Early College High School in Halifax County, North Carolina was designed in collaboration with the College Advising Corps at UNC, Chapel Hill. The seminar was offered as part of a Civics and Economics class and included collaboration between Dr. Tobin and the classroom teacher, College Advising Corps Advisor, and the active participation of a Duke University senior as mentor and teaching assistant. The seminar culminated in a data based report that focused on the relationship between poverty, violence, and leisure opportunities in the community. (see copy of this report in the Report tab above and the website: http://tools4changervec.weebly.com)