"A Night of Freedom" Community Showcase - Real World Learning
Cincinnati, OH
Winton Woods City Schools
Support & Sustainability

“A Night of Freedom” Community Showcase

“A Night of Freedom” is an annual event designed to bring the city of Cincinnati together and invite students from all grade levels to showcase their work through performances, a visual arts gallery walk, and presentations all centered around the subject of freedom. The event, which is held at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, includes a reception and an award ceremony.

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Project-based learning (PBL) is at the heart of our instructional approach. In PBL, students start each new unit of study with a complex and authentic task to complete. Learning often occurs in integrated subject-area courses, like English and Social Studies, where students collaborate with their peers to investigate real-world problems. This demands mastery of subject matter content, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, oral and written communication skills, and individual agency (work ethic). The student inquiry process is supported along the way by New Tech Network (NTN) practices like Entry Events, the Need-to-Know (NTK) process, engaging with content area experts, skill building workshops, and authentic assessment. Projects culminate with the development and presentation of a real-world product, which is evaluated by community experts, educators, and peers.

Implementation: How We Did It

Winton Woods City Schools partners annually with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) to create a student project and performance community showcase called “A Night of Freedom.” Before the school year, we share an event brochure with teachers and administrators that includes project and performance guidelines, rubrics, deadlines, invitations, etc. All projects support the mission of the NURFC and are judged before the event. The selected students from each school are awarded and invited to present their projects at the event. All of the awards are designed as a flame to mimic the symbol of the Eternal Flame and “lighting the way.” This event gives families and the community the opportunity to see what project-based learning really looks like at all grade levels. 

“A Night of Freedom” is aimed at educating and bringing awareness about issues related to freedom. Students showcase powerful academic and artistic projects to challenge and inspire everyone to take courageous steps TO RISE UP.  We consistently have more than 1000 guests (not including staff and students) in attendance.

All of the following individuals are involved in the planning, implementation, and facilitation of these activities: 

  • Superintendent: Supervises everything
  • Community Engagement Coordinator: Overall coordination
  • Teaching and Learning Department: Oversee academic project submissions/selections
  • Business/Transportation Departments: Coordinate busing for students 
  • Principals: Coordinate project selection
  • High School Student Ambassadors: Run set-up and welcome and provide support during event
  • Fine Arts Director: Coordinates visual arts and performances
  • Waycross Media: Captures video of event
  • Executive Team: Oversees various areas of the event
  • Technology Department: Supports technology set up and needs
  • Maintenance Crew: Transports material, instruments, etc.
  • Child Nutrition Department: Serves food during event
  • Publicity Writer: Takes photos
  • Schott Foundation: Donates funds each year to support busing, food, etc.
  • School Security Staff: Help with students and guests

Related Resources

Community Partners
Professional Learning

Community Partners

Partnerships should always be reciprocal relationships. Our partners for this event include:

  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • The Schott Foundation
  • Neusole Glassworks 
  • Express Graphic 

The relationship with the NURFC came about through a chance meeting between our superintendent and the museum’s education coordinator. The timing was right, because we had just expanded project-based learning to the kindergarten and were looking for a project that would work across all grades. Once we had a project description, we reached out to the Schott Foundation with a funding proposal. We already had a relationship with Neusole, because our high school students go there to complete projects throughout the year. 

Our partnership with Neusole Glassworks (glass-blowing) includes an on-site class twice a month with our PreCalculus/Physics and Geometry/Art classes where students create projects on the Neusole premises. In addition, students have internship opportunities with Neusole.


All projects focus on the subject of freedom. In grades K-6, student projects are integrated into 2-4 interdisciplinary units of study and visual arts classes. In 7-12, 3-5 projects are integrated into academic courses and 3-4 projects are integrated into visual arts courses. Curriculum connections are detailed in pages 2 and 3 of our event brochure.


One way we measure success is through guest attendance. The number of community members in attendance has grown each year and is now more than 1,000 people (not including students and staff). It has been great to see the extent to which the community has been, and continues to be, interested in this event.

Another impact measure we consider is student involvement. Students are passionate about their projects and performances and meet expectations as outlined in our rubric, which measures oral communication skills (reasoning, presentation, and interaction with audience), knowledge and thinking skills (topic development), and written communication skills (language and conventions).

Professional Learning

We use the PD resources provided by New Tech Network (NTN) to support project-based learning. NTN provides on-site and virtual learning opportunities. An NTN coach visits our schools  to work directly with staff one-on-one or in groups to gather data, provide feedback and support, and co-develop next steps in professional and organizational development. NTN also provides virtual workshops on specific topics facilitated by NTN coaches. Mentors and teams are available within the building for new teacher on-boarding.

Support Structures

A generous donation from the Schott Foundation has been used to cover the costs of the event. In the first two years, they donated $5,000. For the last two years, as the event has grown considerably, they have donated $10,000. An in-kind donation from Neusole Glassworks brings down the cost of the awards. Express Graphic donates signage.

The Future of this Work

This is an annual event. Next year, we plan to incorporate a poetry contest on the subject of freedom.

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