YPI engages students to gain skills and understanding through an extended inquiry process, which is structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed outcomes and tasks. YPI scaffolds student learning to engage in critical experiential learning that has a real-world impact. YPI uses Project-Based Learning pedagogy with a Social & Emotional Learning approach, and targets the development of 21st Century Skills.

Project-Based Learning

Through YPI, students participate in Project-Based Learning (PBL), a student-led approach to education focused on the investigation of real-world problems. PBL encompasses several other pedagogies that also apply to YPI, including inquiry-based learning, experiential learning, expeditionary learning, community-based learning, and problem-based learning.

There are five keys to rigorous PBL:

1. Real world connection

Each PBL unit begins with an authentic problem or driving question to initiate learning. Through YPI, students examine their local community and identify social issues they want to tackle through their work. Students venture outside their classroom to organizations dealing with these social issues, interviewing experts and gaining real-life experience.

The $5,000 grant at stake for organizations chosen by students at YPI is critical: this is real money going to real organizations with the potential for real impact.

2. The project is core to learning

At YPI, we recommend that educators begin to plan their YPI unit by looking at the curriculum they are required to cover in their course. Working backwards from these outcomes, and from the final presentation students are required to deliver, educators tailor their YPI project to support student success. The project is not an “add-on” or busy work for students, but as the mechanism through which the learning happens.

3. Structured collaboration 

Students participate in YPI in groups, and this work is structured through suggested activities, and supported through tools to manage time and tasks. Teachers should check in with groups on a regular basis, and make sure that every member of the group is pulling their weight and has a role.  

4. PBL is student driven 

Students must be able to demonstrate voice and choice in PBL, and this is what YPI is really all about. In PBL, the teacher’s role is as a facilitator, asking questions, providing guidance but never answers. In YPI, students have the agency to choose the social issue on which to focus, and students choose their organizations to research, visit, and present to their peers.

Additionally, a critical component of our program model is that the panel of judges who ultimately select the winner of a school’s YPI grant is comprised of a majority of students. At YPI, we trust students as key decision-makers in their community.  

5. Multi-faceted assessment

Because PBL is not a one-off assignment, and can engage students for a long period of time, teachers should assess acquisition of skills and knowledge along the way that scaffold student learning. YPI provides several opportunities to do this with suggested assignments for each of the 7 main curricular parts. Peer assessment is incorporated into the class presentation component of the project.

Final assessments in PBL are based on a final product or performance that celebrates student learning, and engages an audience beyond the class. YPI Finals are a great example of this. We recommend inviting as wide an audience as possible to attend every school’s YPI Final, at which student groups compete with one another for a $5,000 grant for their charity. Parents, community members, and other students outside of the participating grade should have the opportunity to learn about social issues and community organizations, and to see the hard work put in by students.  

For more information on PBL, visit and the Buck Institute for Education

Social & Emotional Learning

YPI embodies several of the components of Social & Emotional Learning, an approach to education that values the development of character.

1. Self-awareness

Through YPI, students explore their personal values, and use these values as a jumping off point to identify social issues of importance to them personally, and social service charities for whom they want to advocate.

2. Social awareness

After the foundation of looking inward to identify personal values is established, students are required to explore their communities, and the impact of particular social issues on their communities. They must develop a compelling presentation demonstrating the understanding of a social issue and the impact of an organization on marginalized groups in their community, which requires them to understand the human side of a social issue, or at least be exposed to it through real-life examples; and learn about the experiences of others who, in many cases, are different from themselves. This contributes to the development of empathy.

3. Relationship skills

Every student participating in YPI completes the majority of the program as part of a team. Teams typically consist of 3-5 people, and there are many opportunities for students to build their relationship skills within this framework.

In addition to the teamwork component of YPI, students have the opportunity to develop a relationship with a volunteer/staff member at their chosen charity, leading up to, during, and after their required site visit.

4. Responsible decision making

YPI believes that young people are capable of making responsible and informed decisions. We trust students to identify the most pressing social issues in their communities, and to ultimately decide where funding needs to be directed. The program prepares students to make important real-life decisions.

For more information on social and emotional learning, visit