Series & Documentaries

Plant your soul: The poetry of a Detroit elementary school

Jun 17, 2014
Andrea Claire Maio

Whitney Walker has had a lot of jobs in her life. But she was never content until she landed at her current gig as the office manager at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, a K-4 charter on the east side of Detroit. Walker wears many hats at the school. She’s an administrator, a nurse, a poet. What follows is a poem by Walker, mixed with her ruminations on the school.

Whitney & Zoe from andrea claire maio on Vimeo.

Boggs School


(This story originally appeared on Michigan Radio on Sept. 6, 2013.) 

What if something other than jobs could rebuild Detroit?

What if the purpose of education was to help children reach their highest human potential?

What if we had a conversation about the meaning of service to our community?

These are just a few of the many questions being raised at a new charter school in Detroit. It’s called the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. They opened their doors this week.

What kids with disabilities bring to the classroom

Apr 9, 2014
Zak Rosen


Bentley loves people. He’s usually wearing a big smile.  He’s a joy. But his mother, Adrienne Crawford, admits he’s a lot of work, too.

“I took a three-minute shower" the other day,  says Crawford. "And I came back and his bedroom was covered in baby powder. I don’t know why he did it.  I guess it looks fun, just pouring white powder on the floor.”

Bentley has Down syndrome.

Shortly after he was born, Crawford remembers reading a book that forecast everything that could possibly go wrong in her young son’s life.

1000 Facebook likes and feedback on The Big Test

Jan 31, 2014
Loozrboy / Flickr

We've passed 1000 "likes" on our Facebook page

What does this mean? It means that we're building a community of listeners who are concerned enough about the well-being of Michigan's children to engage with us on social media. Teachers, education students, administrators, staff, parents, and even some kids chime in about what they've heard on the air and on our SoundCloud page.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 The big test is coming. 

"I don’t even want to take it, says Musa, a third grader at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. "I'm not a big fan of tests."

Musa carries himself like an adult: hands casually in his pockets, shoulders back.  He stands on the edge of a cracked asphalt basketball court.

It’s picture day at Congress, and Musa has on a red t-shirt with black sleeves. He says it’s for special occasions, only.  

On the shirt, the words, “Destined for greatness," are laid out across Musa's chest.

"Did you pick it?" I ask him about the shirt.

"Yeah," he says.

"Why did you like what it says?" I ask.

"Because I didn’t want it to be something bad," he said. "So I put ‘Destined for Greatness,’ so people think I’m good, not bad."

Making school more human

Jan 22, 2014
Detroit Future Schools


Do the Right Thing

It’s the second week of January.  Students have just returned from winter break.  With the bonus snow days, they haven’t been in school for three whole weeks. To get back into the swing of things, the third and fourth graders are revisiting their social contract.

It’s something they wrote themselves, with orange marker, on a big sheet of white paper at the beginning of the school year.  The contract lays out over a dozen characteristics they hope to embody both inside and outside of the classroom.  Stuff like:

Helping kids at The Boggs School step into their best selves

Jan 15, 2014
Andrea Claire Maio / Series: Back to Your Senses


Every Morning, Every Night

Christopher Gaston is usually the first kid to arrive at school every morning.  And he’s almost always the last one to leave at night. 

In fact, “It’s tough to get Christopher to leave the building everyday,” says Marisol Teachworth, the Boggs School’s program director and co-founder.

Christopher has volunteered for every possible after school opportunity, including, but not limited to African drumming, creative writing club and Scrabble Club.

trophygeek / Flickr

How are you preparing for the new year? Cleaning the house from top to bottom? Clearing out paper and files? Changing smoke alarm batteries? Yes, you really should do that.

Whether you're working, relaxing, or pondering what 2014 holds, catch up on State of Opportunity's thought-provoking documentaries.

2013 saw us cover: what race means to kids today; the gap in educational achievement in two local school districts; and how we as a society are defining manhood.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio


Break out your number two pencils and a notebook, because we are headed back to grade school. From Michigan Radio, this is State of Opportunity, I’m Jennifer Guerra.

We’ll visit two 5th grade classrooms this hour. One class is made up of kids whose families are mostly well-off:

In general the kids have a lot of help. Their parents are role models. Most of them come from families where their parents are reading as well, or they’re working and have to do work at home, so they’re kind of modeling those things.

user alamosbasement / flickr

 If you were a teacher, what would you do you do if a second grader won’t quiet down during story time? What if a third grader wants to go home sick, but she’s not actually sick?  What if one of your students hits one of his classmates?  How would you handle that?

The Boggs School is brand new.  It’s a K-4 charter on Detroit’s east side.  They’ve got small classrooms but a big, unique mission, which is, in principal Julia Putnam’s words, “to nurture creative, critical thinkers who contribute to the well-being of their communities.”