Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Amy Stornaiuolo


This visual ethnographic account explores how students at an urban high school cultivated their own youth-led affinity spaces: a youth activism group, a dance team, and a film club. My research examines how and why these youth-led spaces emerged, the kinds of making students did within the spaces, and how their identities shifted or changed over time both within and outside of these spaces. My research responds to discourses that seek to reimagine school through interest-driven learning. The Maker Movement and Connected Learning are two such movements that argue that students’ interests should be an integral part of their school learning experiences. These movements argue for students' learning and participation in school to be active and authentic, to build on students’ out of school literacies, and to position students as creative agents. In urban districts, students are often subjected to test prep and didactic approaches that limit how youth express and demonstrate learning and are disconnected from their own interests or affinities. In creating youth-led affinity spaces, students were exercising agency, engaging in leadership, and pursuing their interests. Thus far, there has not been an examination of interest-driven learning, schooling, and identity. My examination of youth-making can create opportunities for youth to cultivate dialogic relationships with peers and adults, draw on their out of school literacies and media knowledge to influence their making, and perform new identities – within the institutional boundary of school.

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