STRIPES is an integrated learning program at Belmont Charter High School in Philadelphia, PA. It is a place-based, experimental approach to learning that extends the classroom beyond the walls of the high school. STRIPES students get credit for traditional courses. STRIPES stands for STudying Real Issues, Places and ExperienceS.
STRIPES launched in January 2021 as a place-based program for 9-11th graders. When the pandemic hit, it was redesigned as STRIPES Gig Edition, an entrepreneurial program, for 11-12th graders in the 2020-21 school year. Due to COVID-related challenges, STRIPES was postponed during the 2021-22 school year.
STRIPES relaunched in the 2022-23 school year as two semester-long elective courses for 11th graders:
Semester 1: Exploring Parkside
Students go beyond the walls of the school to discover surprising things about the school’s neighborhood and its rich history
Semester 2: Designing Parkside
Students design and build a space on a local piece of land based on the needs of the community.
Both programs are place-based and experimental. A heterogeneous mix of students are admitted each year through an application and interview process.
Mission & Pathways
In the STRIPES program, students learn through real-world, local experiences in the city of Philadelphia. STRIPES scholars develop a sense of connection, purpose, and possibility that empowers them to shape and impact their communities.
STRIPES utilizes three main pathways in order to develop connection, purpose, and possibility: authentic partnerships, integrated learning, and self-knowledge.
Authentic Partnership is cultivated on multiple levels in the STRIPES program. Young adults are welcomed into our community and fully appreciated for who they are. We start each session with a meeting meant to engender a sense of belonging, and we consistently integrate team-building into our program. STRIPES students and teachers create a social contract through consensus, which guides how we support each other in achieving our individual and group goals. We also develop authentic partnerships with other members of the school community, including neighbors and experts in various fields to plan and take action that has real world impact. STRIPES students and teachers thus develop a shared purpose that inspires compassion, collaboration, and accountability. Click here to learn more about a recent STRIPES partnership
Integrated Learning encourages the assimilation and application of diverse ideas across traditional academic subject areas, reflecting the way our brains are designed to learn. While teachers carefully plan the integration of state standards, students will often be unaware of what “class” they are in. Learning in STRIPES starts with high interest experience as a springboard to knowledge, from which STRIPES students construct theoretical frameworks. STRIPES students immerse themselves into local case studies to uncover new connections and understandings of how to affect change in their world. This knowledge is then applied to designing and implementing their own projects.
Self-Knowledge enables students to appreciate who they are, while growing towards who they want to be. We repeatedly plan our actions, execute our plan, and reflect on our outcomes, building agency with each cycle. Regular coaching sessions reinforce executive functioning skills, and social emotional learning is applied to academic and personal goals. On a daily, weekly, and long-term basis, STRIPES participants reflect on their work and commitments. As such, grades are determined by teacher/student collaborative assessment. Students use their knowledge, skills, and mindsets to develop an important voice in shared decision-making.
What is integrated learning?
Most of us went through school attending separate classes — English, Social Studies, Science, etc. — and then entered the real world of adulthood where we typically have to combine those skills in order to complete a task. Integrated learning begins this process in the classroom. Using questions and issues to guide their work, students embark on projects that merge academic classes and are relevant to students’ lives. A strong sense of community emerges that fosters trust, risk-taking, and mentoring. The integrated model also relies on additional, critical life skills: collaboration, creativity, curiosity, and self-reflection. Essentially, by combining their academic classes into a single experience, students still learn the traditional knowledge they would in individual classes, but have the opportunity to do so through larger projects that are rooted in their interests and the Belmont community.
How is STRIPES scheduled during the school day?
The 15 students who will be selected for each STRIPES program (there will be two half-year programs next year) will be spending several hours of each day together. Some of this time will be collaborative group work and other time will be independent study. Many of our days will include outdoor neighborhood investigations and trips. Through the course of our work, students will get credit for traditional courses.
What courses will STRIPES scholars get credit for?
Tenth-grade students in STRIPES: Land & Power will get credit for Biology and an elective (urban ecology). STRIPES Gig edition gives credits for American History, English, and an elective (financial literacy)
Will STRIPES students still take other regular classes?
Yes, STRIPES students are only together for some of each day. Scholars still take other required academic classes outside of STRIPES. The main thing is that the look and feel of their day will be different due to the combination of classes. STRIPES students will have to work to manage these transitions, both in terms of physical space and the different learning styles they will experience each day.
Does STRIPES give tests and grades like other classes?
Yes and no. STRIPES uses a variety of assessments to determine student mastery. We rely heavily on feedback, reflection, assignments, and participation. STRIPES scholars won’t have typical exams, but they will have comprehensive projects and final presentations. STRIPES will give quarterly grades and report cards, just like other Belmont Charter High School classes.
What kind of learner/student is a good fit for STRIPES?
STRIPES can be a good fit for a range of students. The main thing about STRIPES is HOW scholars will be engaged in their learning. Learning in STRIPES asks scholars to be self-directed and self-motivated in ways that perhaps you haven’t been expected to be yet. STRIPES focuses on finding connections among ideas, learning from experts and expeditions, and hands-on investigations. If you learn best in a more traditional classroom, then STRIPES may not be a good fit for you. However, if you sometimes feel that you learn differently than how you are taught, or if you would like more hands-on, outdoor, real-world experiences as part of your school day, STRIPES could be a good fit for you. If you aren’t sure, that’s okay! Complete the application, and we can talk more during the interview process. The application is not a commitment to the program, just an expression of interest.
I’m interested in STRIPES but not sure if I would be interested. What should I do?
If you aren’t sure, that’s okay! Complete the application, and we can talk more during the interview process. The application is not a commitment to the program, just an expression of interest.
Is STRIPES a support or remediation program?
NO! STRIPES is for all scholars, whether you’re thriving or struggling. It is a vigorous, academic program. Those who feel that school has lost relevance for them may feel a particular pull to STRIPES since the program is all about finding personal connections to ideas and issues. However, it is also for students who are thriving at BCHS and are looking for other opportunities to learn and challenge themselves in a new way through hands-on experiences and expeditions outside of the classroom.