Community Input into School Redesign


Students, parents, educators, partners and community members are all vital components to high school designs that will provide relevant, meaningful experiences and to contribute to the success of both the graduates and community. Community Input into School Redesign is designed to provide a variety of methods to support getting the community involved with input and planning for a high school redesign. 

An engaged community process may use a variety of approaches to better understand community desires, values, beliefs and gather input.

Whether you are embarking upon your redesign journey, designing a half-day session to review and organize input with stakeholders, or a multiple-day Charette to engage in school designs, we believe you will find the guides and tools below useful.

Healing, Community, and Humanity: How Students and Teachers Want to Reinvent Schools Post-COVID. Read the Report.

Design Charettes

A charrette is an intensive planning session where community members, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.

Implementing Design Thinking + Charrette Process in the Classroom Montibello High School’s Charette Process in Colorado serves a successful example of how redesign can be informed by community input.

Download the Booklet (PDF)

Charettes 101: Dynamic Planning for Community Change is a booklet that describes the process of holding a charrette, a four- to seven-day planning event that assembles an interdisciplinary team of all stakeholders to design and plan a project together. During the course of the charrette, a team of planners, residents, business people, architects, environmental experts, policy makers, and others works together in brainstorming sessions and sketching workshops. Throughout the charrette, participants meet during scheduled sessions and work out specific planning problems. People passionately argue their points and generously share their knowledge and insights. By listening to participants debate the issues, everyone in the room learns more about the project’s complexity.

Download the Booklet (PDF)

Charrettes (Design Sketching): ½ Inspiration, ½ Buy-In by Kara Pernice outlines how design charrettes inspire design sketches and ideas, include more people in the design process, explore and expose goals and objectives of colleagues in multiple functional roles, and drive off designer’s block. 

Read the Article Online

The Charrette Protocol is a two-page outline of the purpose of a charrette as well as the roles of the participants, how to use the protocol, the process, etc.

Download the Outline (PDF)

Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council published a brochure of the entire charrette planning process.

Download the Brochure (PDF)

Follow 100 students from The Salvadori Center in New York through an all-day design challenge to redesign Time Square as a pedestrian mall with the help of professional engineers, architects, and designers.

Video: Salvadori Center 

You can also watch this four-minute video and learn the process from the Salvadori Center in New York that takes 100 students through an all-day design challenge to redesign Time Square as a pedestrian mall with the help of professional engineers, architects, and designers. Watch the Video Online

Conversation Cafe

Conversation Cafés are lively, hosted, drop-in conversations among diverse people about our feelings, thoughts, and actions on a specific topic or project.

Video 1: How to Host a Conversation Cafe

Video 5: What Happens at a Conversation Cafe?

Video 2: Where Can I Host a Conversation Cafe?

Video 6: What Are the Benefits of Hosting a Conversation Cafe?

Video 3: What’s In and What’s Out in Conversation Cafe?

Video 7: What Support Is There for Hosts of a Conversation Cafe?

Video 4: What Do I Need to Host a Conversation Cafe?

Town hall discussion with an audience of parents, teacher, students, and education experts about school discipline. This American Graduate video was produced by Nine Network features a town hall discussion

Cafe Posters

The World Cafe has designed a series of etiqueete posters that can be displayed during conversations. There is a “guidelines” poster designed by Avril Orloff and eight themed posters created by graphic artist, Sonja Niederhumer. These posters are free for download and reproduction.

Click to view & download the posters

The Complete Hosting Manual


Hosting is simple! It can be as minimal as showing up, introducing the process and keeping time. Yet, the practice of hosting can be very profound. It is a dynamic, honest, humble process of staying present to your own reality while drinking in the reality of everyone else.

Learn more & download manual

Principles for Conversation Cafés


Conversation Cafés were designed as a gift to the world. The hope was that this method and conversations using the CC method would spread “with integrity and fidelity”—stay both true to form, yet give hosts the maximum freedom to adapt it to their situation. 

Learn more & download manual


Resident-Driven Community Development

Through actively seeking the collective wisdom of all residents, including those whose voices are often missing, resident-driven community development brings people together to redesign stronger, healthier and more vibrant schools based on what matters most to everyone.

Engaging the Community in HS Redesign is a webinar developed in conjunction with our partners at Louisiana Department of Education. The webinar explores the evidence-based insights that encourage community involvement as well as examining a variety of approaches to incorporate community stakeholders’ desires, values, and feedback in a school’s redesign.


Download the Presentation (PPT)
Download the Presentation (PDF)



A resource from the Orton Family Foundation site that provides a step by step process and kit of resources to equip teams to use the Heart and Soul method in their communities.

Download the Guide (PDF)



These sample talking points will help your team write informative, helpful messages so residents will understand all about your Heart & Soul efforts. A resource from the Orton Family Foundation Community Heart & Soul website that provides a wide-variety of resources to equip teams to connect with their communities.

Download the Guide (PDF)


This resource helps build bridges to the media and spread the word about your project. Practical tips on how to pitch stories, write compelling press releases and letters to the editor, and create media packets. A resource from the Orton Family Foundation Community Heart & Soul website that provides a wide-variety of resources to equip teams to connect with their communities.

Download the Guide (PDF)




Networks & Partnerships


Michele Cahill hosts Building Networks & Partnerships a discussion with experts on how to design educational experiences in collaboration with others. Featuring: Jeff McClellan Founding Principal of MC² STEM High School Cleveland, OH Stephanie Wu Senior Vice President of City Year Boston, MA Aaliyah Brown Graduate of MC² STEM High School Cleveland, OH. 

Listen to the Podcast. 

Student Voice & Choice

Students entering high school have rarely experienced “voice and choice” in their previous schools. As a result, they can often be resistant to the concept, viewing it as a situation in which the adults do not know what they are doing or are abandonging their responsibility to educate. In order to help students begin to enjoy the power of their voice and choice, it’s helpful to establish routines and practices that scaffold student learning. 

Next to educators, students spend the most time in school and have very definitive opinions about what they want to achieve from their education in and out of school. In this section we have resources to help engage student voice in high school redesign.

Respected: Perspectives of Youth on High School & Social and Emotional Learning While life outside of school can pose obstacles to learning, reconstructing what happens inside of school can offset learning barriers and instead enhance, accelerate, and broaden our success. The adults who teach and guide us—teachers, administrators, coaches, and counselors—should be organized to foster a warm, nurturing, and physically and emotionally safe environment that acknowledges and helps offset these obstacles.

Download the Report


Student and Youth Voice: Asking, Listening, and Taking Action from who for more than 15 years, has reached far and wide to document and broadcast the voices and vision of the next generation. This wide-array of resources include questionnaires, surveys, and other valuable resources for obtaining student voice and choice.

Visit the Website


Promoting Student Voice Throught Student Focus Groups (A Fishbowl Exercise) The student fishbowl focus group is a highly adaptable process that uses basic dialogue concepts and a simple structure to encourage students to express their opinion, ideas and concerns about their classrooms and school. The reversal of formal roles, where students speak and adults listen, makes a strong impression on students and adults alike.

Download the Exercise (PDF)


This short video produced by the Nellie Mae Education Foundationdiscusses the importance of including student voice in all aspects of the education they are consuming. In this dynamic video students, teachers, and administrators share their views on making education more personal, relevant, and engaging.

Students’ Voices, Students’ Visions is a video produced by the Everyone Graduates Center. The 10-minute video captures 20 West-Baltimore high school students discussing school design, learning, school & the community, and business & wealth. It is an illuminating glimpse into how 21st Century high school students view their school experience, what they’d like to ultimately achieve from their high school experiences.

Quick Ways to Get Started

As part of needs assessment process, construct a short, online survey for students, parents, and community members asking their views on the what they see as the value and purpose of high school.

We offer a query data template used by Boston Public Schools and Mayors Cabinet that you can customize and use in a public forum to gather input from students, parents, and the community.

Download the MS Word Template


Study Circles

Study Circles provide another structure for seeking community feedback and action. A study circle is a group of 8 to 12 people who meet regularly over a period of weeks or months to address a critical public issue in a democratic, collaborative way. Participants examine the issue from many points of view and identify areas of common ground. They emerge with recommendations for action that will benefit the whole community.

Organizing Study Circles examines the “what”, “whys”, and “hows” of study circles and how to plan and conduct study circles to improve knowledge about key issues in one’s community. Click Here to View Online.









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