The World’s Most Innovative Schools: HSRA, St. Paul, Minnesota (“Hip Hop High School”)

May 12, 2011 at 8:56 am Leave a comment


(in this video, HSRA’s founder explains what it’s all about)

by Alec Patton

I found out about the Hip Hop High School thanks to the High Tech High School – specifically, Samuel Steinberg Seidel’s article about it in Unboxed, High Tech High’s ‘Journal of Adult Learning in Schools’.

St. Paul, Minnesota’s High School for the Recording Arts (HSRA) is a chartered high school driven by project-based learning, and run on hip hop principles -interpreted by Seidel as follows (this is just a sampling – so to speak – of the design principles that he identifies):

  • Project-based learning: ‘Hip hop took classical dance, flipped it on its head and literally spun it around. Project-based learning does the same thing to traditional schooling.’
  • Students learn through partnerships with businesses and public entities: ‘By starting and cross-promoting their own record labels, media outlets, clothing brands, fragrances and beverage companies, hip hop artists have crafted a fresh approach to the art of business. HSRA has followed this lead, structuring deals with several companies, as well as state departments of health and education, to provide student-produced music and materials that are effective at reaching other young people with important messages.’
  • Teachers mix music and critical analysis of social issues (Seidel doesn’t make the link to hip hop explicit here, but anyone who’s listened to public enemy, KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, or a host of other ‘socially-conscious’ rappers will understand how this fits into ‘hip hop principles’)
  • The school is built around recording studios—physically and conceptually – Seidel compares the feel at HSRA to that of a Reggio school: ‘The first time I walked into a Reggio school, before I saw any teaching or learning, I noticed beautiful furniture, sculptures, costumes and art materials and knew I was in a place of curiosity, discovery, and joy. Similarly, HSRA’s facility itself communicates a powerful message. From blank CDs being sold from vending machines in the school’s cafeteria to halls lined with posters of albums that have been produced at the school, there are many visual cues that HSRA is a hip hop school.’

I’ll leave you with a clip from HSRA’s ‘Friday Free-for-all’:

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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