Connecticut Core Standards

Classroom Resources - Learning Projects Aligned to Core Standards

Illuminating Standards Video Series

What would it look like if standards were met with depth, and imagination? The Illuminating Standards Project, a collaborative project of Expeditionary Learning and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, showcases a video collection of long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects illustrating how to make standards come alive in project-based learning. (


  • Our Presumpscot School Community - This video shows how students learned the meaning of community by creating “community cards” as a way to become familiar with the staff members in their school. They learned how to interview, illustrate, and write as they created cards. These community cards were compiled into a directory of staff members and were used as a guide for visitors, new students, and their families. (Presumpscot Elementary School, Portland, ME, grade: K)
  • Six-Word Memoir Self-Portraits - This video showcases students using personal narrative, in written and artistic forms, to develop a sense of community in the classroom that facilitates learning throughout the school year. (Downtown Denver Expeditionary Learning School, Denver, CO, grade: 2)
  • Snakes Are Born This Way – In this video, students completed extensive research on snakes, wrote, performed, and produced the song “Snakes Are Born This Way”, created a music video, and posted it on YouTube. (Conservatory Lab Charter School, Boston, MA, grade: 2)
  • What's Up: Frequently Asked Questions About Space, By Kids, For Kids – This video shows students brainstorming questions they had about astronomy with a local physicist. Using multiple sources, students then researched the answers to their own questions and shared their answers via both text and illustrations. They worked with the school’s visual arts teacher in the conception and composition of their illustrations. This illustrated book was made available in their school store.  (Genesee Community Charter School, Rochester, NY, grade: 3)
  • What's Out There – In this video, students created “What’s Out There?” a true or false book about the universe. Students chose their own topic to research, wrote their question and answer, and created illustrations. (Conservatory Lab Charter School, Dorchester, grade: 4)
  • Get Your Blues On - This video features an interdisciplinary project that joins history with poetry, music, and visual arts. As part of an historical case study of The Great Migration, students studied the Blues, wrote original poems, performed them for an audience, and created a book that combined the poems with original collage art. The students’ work is featured in a professionally designed and printed book. (Conservatory Lab Charter School, Brighton, MA, grade: 4) 

Middle School

  • You Grotto Go to Hemlock Gorge – In this video, students investigated geological processes in a local gorge in order to create a book titled, “You Grotto Go to Hemlock Gorge,” that turned them into artists and geologists in their effort to graphically illustrate and clearly explain the geological process they had investigated. (Conservatory Lab Charter School, Brighton, MA, grade: 6)     
  • Revitalizing Rochester – This video features a civic project in which students successfully led a campaign to revitalize their community. Students researched and collected information about other cities around the United States who have engaged in successful waterway-revitalization projects.  They then wrote a position paper titled “Revitalize Rochester” for the reconsideration of an unsuccessful bond issue to revitalize the Rochester downtown by restoring water to the Erie Canal waterway and building a surrounding commercial district. (Genesee Community Charter School, Rochester, NY, grade: 6)
  • Character File of Autumn Helena Washington Hawn – This video showcases one student’s authentic project based on the class’ study on deaf culture that included: a study of world and U.S. history from the perspective of the deaf, the reading of fiction and non-fiction books related to deaf culture, and presentations by deaf people of all ages as cultural experts. Students also did fieldwork at different schools for the deaf, studied the anatomy and physiology of hearing, the physics of sound and hearing, and worked with communication scientists at a local university lab. (Shutesbury Elementary School, Shutesbury, MA, grades: 5, 6)
  • Mohammed and the Number Genie – In this video, small groups of students write their own chapter, taking key concepts in math and embedding them into a narrative. Each group worked together to explain their mathematical concept accurately and within the context of the story. (High Tech Middle Chula Vista, San Diego, CA, grade: 6)
  • Small Acts of Courage – In this video, students explored the Civil Rights Movement and became historians as they researched events, interviewed local heroes, and documented their experiences. In celebration of their work, students organized a community presentation to honor those interviewed and to share their collection of stories.  (King Middle School, Portland, ME, grade: 7)
  • Peacekeepers of Chicago – This video shows students collecting data on gun violence in their own neighborhood. The statistics, showing high numbers of fatalities near the school, and their own personal experiences with violence compelled them to take action. They completed two projects: a citywide “Day of Peace” event and a book to honor the stories of local citizens working for peace. (Polaris Charter Academy, Chicago, IL, grade: 7)
  • A Little More Than Just People - This video shows students engaged in a community-based project to create and publish a book titled “A Little More than Just People: Monologues of Community Cultivators.” (Four Rivers Charter Public School, Greenfield, MA, grade: 8)
  • This Is Why I Cry - This video showcases students creating a historically accurate fictional narrative told through a character’s perspective. (Pioneer Charter School, Fort Collins, CO, grade: 8)
  • The Wolf That Would Forgive – In this video, students created a book of original fables based on personal narratives for intermediate elementary readers. This project combined an academic (reading/writing) focus on the genre of fables with a character/community focus on personal values and habits of behavior. (Four Rivers Charter Public School, Greenfield, MA, grade: 8)
  • A Rainbow of Religion – In this video, students interviewed leaders of different faiths in their community, asking questions about life, morality and meaning. Students then wrote, critiqued, and edited their work in order to publish a book that explored fundamental life questions. (Four Rivers Charter Public School, Greenfield, MA, grade: 8)
  • ReVOLT – This video shows students engaged in an interdisciplinary project using design to solve a real world problem: the limitations imposed by our current ways of using energy. After investigating science and social issues such as environmental concerns behind wind power, they used what they learned in all of their classes to design and build devices that solved a modern-day energy need in a unique way. Designs and research were pitched to a panel of community members. (King Middle School, Portland, ME, grade: 8)   
  • The 20 Years Project – This video features a project that shows how Common Core math standards can be addressed in work that is engaging and compelling; it asked students to imagine their life 20 years in the future. Each student created a portfolio that included an interview of someone who had taken a career path similar to what they envisioned for themselves and a monthly budget based on their projected lifestyle. Each student’s portfolio ended with “20 Years Reflection”, an imaginative look back at the last 20 years. (High Tech Middle Chula Vista, San Diego, CA, grade: 8)

High School

  • Water Quality and the Future Use of Loon Pond – In these video, students conducted a full, professional water quality assessment on a local pond to determine if it was safe to be re-opened as a public recreation area. In addition to learning how to conduct scientific field work, students gained a deep understanding of environmental science standards, scientific reading and writing standards, and what it meant to provide an important service for their community. (Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA, grade: 9)
  • Perspectives of San Diego Bay: A Field Guide – This video showcases students engaged in collaboration across academic disciplines to create a professional-quality field guide that met a genuine market need in their community. Students researched, collected data, did analysis, and designed the field guide with the help of teachers, scientists, and community members. (Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High School, San Diego, CA, grades: 9-12)
  • Economics Illustrated – This video showcases students creating a book that used writing and art to demonstrate economic terms and concepts in ways that their peers and non-economists could understand. (High Tech High School, San Diego, CA, grades: 9-12)
  • Chemistry & Conflict - This video shows a cross-disciplinary research project where students studied both chemistry and history to create a book titled “Chemistry and Conflict.” To create this book, pairs of students worked together to research the relationship between a chemical element or compound to both a historical and a contemporary conflict. This project started with extensive research, leading to the writing of a research paper. Students also made copper etching illustrations to accompany their writing.  The students’ work is featured in a professionally designed and printed book. (High Tech High, San Diego, CA, grade: 10)    
  • The Human Face of Human Rights – This video features a project in which students interviewed international refugees about the human rights abuses they had experienced in their home countries. Students wrote about the immigrants’ reflections and included photography to retell their experiences. (Casco Bay High School, Portland, ME, 10th grade)
  • Iconic – In this video, students are the authors of a book titled: “Iconic: The Black and White of Our Heroes & Heroines”, a collection of essay reflections on their personal relationship with a chosen icon (both famous and little-known heroes who inspired them) paired with black and white photographic self-portraits. This book was printed as a paperback. (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA, grade: 11)

Other Projects Aligned to Core Standards

  • Authentic Products Aligned to Common Core Writing Standards – This document focuses specifically on the writing component of final products.  Ideally, these products are created for an authentic audience, one beyond the classroom and the teacher. (Expeditionary Learning, Plaut and Passchier, January 2015)