created informal classes called Junior
and Senior Seminar. Teachers spend
two (mostly preparation-free) periods
each week supervising these seminars,
helping each student move ahead on
internships and other work, such as
senior projects and post-graduation
planning. Students who are meeting
internship milestones may also use the
seminar time to do other work.
Internships at Four Rivers take place
in March, which allows much of the
year for preparation while still leaving
two months for wrap-up and final
presentations. Classes are suspended
during 11th graders’ internship week,
so teachers are available for site visits,
transportation, and other needs. During
the three-week period for 12th grade
internships and fieldwork, which
overlaps with the 11th grade internship
week, teachers offer a flexible curriculum to accommodate students’
Schools must also decide whether
internships are optional or mandatory
and what requirements students must
fulfill. At the Met, internship work
must relate to five broad learning goals
that overlap with academic disciplines.
At Four Rivers, seniors need to complete projects that address a real-world
issue, have an authentic audience,
and result in a product that is of use
in the world beyond the school. Rich
learning opportunities often emerge
as an internship unfolds, so strict
adherence to a predetermined plan can
Internships pose an array of challenges, of course. Curriculum,
assessment, schedules, staffing, and
transportation must be modified;
and liability coverage should be confirmed for off-site activities. Inadequate
screening can lead to disappointing
placements, and internships can fall
through at the last minute. Some students will need extra support, and
others will fall short of expectations.
Students can’t be penalized for problems
Seniors working on
have far less reason
to slump in the
final months before
that were beyond their control, and students who fall short during scheduled
internship times may need to complete
one on their own time. Lessons learned
from early years of the program reduce
but do not eliminate these challenges, so
flexibility and good humor—fortified by
seeing students have wonderful learning
Getting Started and Scaling Up
Schools throughout the United States
are developing internship programs
within reasonable time frames and
budgets, so enterprising schools should
feel confident in their ability to get
started. Four Rivers set the basic parameters of its program during summer
2006 and started internships that same
school year. The ambitious schedule
called for some quick decisions as the
year progressed, but the program was a
great success and laid the groundwork
for improvements each year.
New and existing programs would
benefit from improved access to field-
tested program materials, detailed
implementation guidelines, research
on effective practices, and profes-
sional development opportunities
with internship program veterans. The
Internship Network ( www.Internship
Network.org) supports internship
program development and facilitates
sharing of ideas and resources, and Big
Picture Learning ( www.BigPicture.org)
and the National Academy Foundation
( www.naf.org) make some of their
materials available online.
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Alexandra, VA: ASCD.
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high school internships. New York: Author.
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Washor, E., & Mojkowski, C. (2006/2007).
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Retrieved from www.doe.mass.edu/
Eliot Levine is a research manager
at the University of Massachusetts
Donahue Institute and founder of the
Internship Network. He was a high
school teacher for seven years; elevine@