Youth Education

Urban Investigations
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Urban Investigations

Urban Investigations are project-based curricula that enable high school students to explore fundamental questions about how the city works, using collaborative research and design.

Each investigation begins with a key question. Where does our water come from? Where does our garbage go? Who owns the Internet? To find answers, students go beyond standard classroom learning and engage in rigorous field research: visiting real sites and interviewing decision-makers and stakeholders. After researching the issue, students collaborate with a teaching designer to produce innovative, engaging multimedia teaching tools. These products are taken up by neighborhood organizations and advocacy groups and used to educate others.

By participating in Urban Investigations, students gain the skills to investigate their own communities. They gain access to the decision-makers that affect the world around them, and engage in active citizenship. Students learn how to creatively communicate their ideas through design. Project-based learning allows students to shine in multiple ways: from interviewing to illustration, from audio production to writing. Students see the city as the product of a decision-making landscape and are empowered to participate in it. The products that students create with a visual artist find real audiences and impact communities outside of the school in arts and social justice fields.

Our work grows from a belief that the power of imagination is central to the practice of democracy, and that the work of governing must engage the dreams and visions of citizens. CUP believes in the legibility of the world around us. What can we learn by investigation? By learning how to investigate, we train ourselves to change what we see.

Urban Investigations work best in afterschool programs or school programs that can accommodate semester-long projects that meet three to four times a week and give the project team the flexibility to leave the classroom for site visits and interviews.

See what education journal Edutopia has to say about CUP’s Urban Investigations.

Download or buy Urban Investigation products here. Find out more about partnering with CUP here.


Civically Engaged Project-Based Learning, Virtually
  • The Reinvention Lab via
  • October 30, 2020

How the Center for Urban Pedagogy is pushing for more relevant, community-based learning in the age of Coronavirus and calls for racial justice.

NYC Teens Share How Criminal Justice System Impacts Their Communities
  • Next City
  • October 16, 2019

Rivera and Minns were two of the 11 students who participated in a summer employment program at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the nation’s first multijurisdictional community court. The cohort worked with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a nonprofit using design and art to explain complex social justice issues, to compose a booklet explaining how criminal conspiracy laws impact New York communities.

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Teens look to get out the vote
  • The Hunts Point Express
  • July 05, 2017

The teens partnered with NYC Votes and the Center for Urban Pedagogy to create “Our Voice, Our Choice,” a 14-page guide they introduced at a June 29 roundtable at the Bronx Music Heritage Center in Soundview. 

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Bronx High Schoolers Explain How MTA Funding Works
  • StreetsBlog NYC
  • September 23, 2015

Monday night, the students presented a 12-minute video they made during a summer course with the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). It explains everything from who appoints the MTA board to the size of the gap in the capital budget.