Cityside at Wheeler

Interdisciplinary learning for tomorrow’s citizen stakeholders

The Wheeler School offers to all 8th-grade students, its Cityside program — a year-long interdisciplinary experience embedded in the City of Providence.

What is Cityside?

Cityside is led by Director Joe Baer (a veteran Wheeler 8th grade History teacher, nonprofit founder, and activist with a background in small business and urban environments) with support from the 8th-grade faculty team. The program leverages Providence’s 25 neighborhoods, working with various NGOs, non-profit organizations, community groups, and branches of government to provide a rich curriculum for civic engagement, project-based learning, inquiry, and research. Cityside supports students in their exploration of interests as they form meaningful partnerships with collaborating organizations including WaterFire Providence, as well as other Providence artists, activists, local business owners, environmental experts and city officials, to develop projects of relevance to the student, to create value for the community, and to leave a positive impact on the city and student.

“If we want our students to know their powers and be answerable to their use as our founder Mary Wheeler believed, we must give them real and relevant opportunities to practice in the world. Cityside is the ideal opportunity for students to practice adhering to her precept.” — Young Un, Head of Strategic Innovation

A cornerstone of Cityside is the length of time students are given for exploration into topics and areas of interest. Students devote 4-hour-long blocks of time per week working off-campus alongside a support system of community leaders and Wheeler faculty to develop collaborative project ideas, as well as ask “big questions” as they begin to realize their role as student-citizens. Students will navigate resources and understand what is needed to sustain and grow the health of a community. “Home base” for Cityside students when off campus will be the new Cityside Studio at the WaterFire Arts Center.

“Our work will be supported and enhanced by numerous non-profits, government agencies, arts organizations, and other local groups as students seek multiple opportunities to explore and express their ideas through projects that will not only address important issues but create an exchange of value for all involved.” — Allison Gaines Pell, Head of School

Learning at Wheeler is dynamic, a pedagogy that makes programs like Cityside possible. The work students accomplish through Cityside complements the learning being done in regularly scheduled classes. From English and Math to Music and Science, students will apply their knowledge and develop skills as they leverage Wheeler’s core group of design labs: the Library Learning Commons, Digital Production Studio, Hirsch/Alperin Design Innovate Build Lab and the Wheeler Art Studios to test their ideas and build strategies and prototypes to help reach their project goals. At the conclusion of the school year, students will have built a digital portfolio of design thinking including their writing, photographs, drawings, audio, video, and artifacts that represent their strategy and reflection of their project to follow them into the Wheeler Upper School.

Why Cityside?

Students will be able to answer these essential questions upon completion of their year in Cityside:

Contact Joe Baer for more information.

Who are our partners?



Cityside Voices

Meet Our Cityside Collaborators

Nearly 30 area organizations are involved as collaborators for projects and initiatives with the Wheeler Cityside program, which remains open to new partnerships with neighborhood groups, non-profit organizations, and other institutions for the benefit of our students and our communities.

Cityside Faculty & Staff