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Liger Leadership Academy

How can we create the change makers and leaders of the future?

Liger learners are taught to become 'Change Agents', to take initiative through an inquiry process by seeking real-world problems and creating solutions through a combination of project-based, experiential and opportunity based learning.

HundrED 2020


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2020

HundrED 2018

Web presence






Target group
September 2017
Imagine you’re 13 and writing a book about the economy of your country, it gets printed and then thousands of people are reading it. The work is very real, compelling and motivating - everything we do here is for real.

About the innovation

What is the Liger Leadership Academy?

Why we do it?
In developing countries, a strong education can offer individuals a hopeful future and a chance to make lasting beneficial change in their community. However, in underfunded school systems where few high-quality schools exist, children can have very limited opportunities to develop the skills and attributes necessary to be change makers. Careers in STEM or entrepreneurship can create livelihoods for individuals and positively impact whole communities, but without an already strong economy, it is difficult to fund education in these fields. This means that children from around the developing world, in particular, lack the opportunity to develop to their full potential and communities miss out.

How we do it
The Liger Leadership Academy is a not for profit school that recruits children from various provinces in Cambodia to change their lives and expand their opportunities and in doing so create the change agents for the future of the country. Through a six-year program of project-based, opportunity-based learning and a focus on entrepreneurship and STEAM, students are learning the skills to create change in their own communities and beyond.

The Approach
At Liger, students learn about the world around them by becoming active change agents in that world. The school embodies a design thinking approach, encouraging students to think deeply, brainstorm ideas, plan and implement solutions to real problems. Liger allows for at least 25% of the time for experiential learning off campus. This could include long-term projects such as building an artificial reef off the coast of Cambodia, working with experts and politicians to affect policy change, or even researching, writing and publishing groundbreaking books on the economy, wildlife, geography, indigenous communities, etc. Students are also free to spend a couple days a week on a long-term (1-3 year) research project of their choosing, to fit around their essential learning. Liger students work in partnership with the government to create STEM projects that are not too demanding of resources and money.

Personalized Learning
The learning is truly personalized and differentiated towards a student’s interests, skills, and passion. Every effort is made to accommodate a student’s interests. If a pupil wants to go on a week-long seminar on business start-ups or a two-day course on birds with expert ornithologists, the school arranges this. Students create a portfolio of their best work which is representative of their unique learning journey and personal growth.

Who is a Teacher?
In addition to learning by trained teachers, Liger invites industry experts from around the world to visit the school either in person or virtually. At Liger you will find anything from skype guitar lessons to visiting geologists leading geological fieldwork throughout Cambodia to filmmakers mentoring our students on documentary projects. Working with these and many other international experts means there is no end to quality learning opportunities. The school puts a strong emphasis on Cambodian culture so that, as well as understanding and experiencing other cultures, the children take a deep knowledge and pride in their own country and culture.

The Students
Liger travels around Cambodia and select students with significant potential, based on how they exhibit leadership, ingenuity, creativity, and enthusiasm - not just academic skills.

Liger Leadership Academy has the potential to scale the program to other countries as we believe the program can significantly enhance the learning for all students. We are currently completing comprehensive documentation of how to develop a Liger Leadership Academy in various locations around the world.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Through a six-year program of project-based, opportunity-based learning and a focus on entrepreneurship and STEAM, students are learning the skills to create change in their own communities and beyond. Liger is based on collaboration, and the way in which Liger uses project-based and experiential learning is replicable within other school contexts.

HundrED Academy Reviews

They create real-life solutions to local issues and have high aspirations. Students are change agents who have make the most of their opportunities.

It has a potential for scalability as methodology is being developed now on how to use this model in various contexts.

- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process

Implementation steps

Develop a project idea
Develop an idea for your experiential project based learning experience. Ideally teachers work together with students to determine the best idea for the project. For some projects the teachers determine the projects ahead of time.

Ideas should be developed in a timely manner before the project begins; however, enough flexibility should be considered to alter the course of the project if opportunities arise during the project that add value to the learning.A good project does not need to include all criteria listed below, but an attempt should be made to implement as many as possible. The more the criteria used, usually a better product is obtained. Not all criteria are appropriate for all projects.Some criteria to consider when deciding on a project idea -Does the proposed project:

  • Do something real? Not a pretend scenario or artificial situation. Something authentic or meaningful.

  • Meet a need in your community or region?

  • Take advantage of opportunities that arise before or during your project? Example: your students are challenged by a local governmental official to design new recycling plan for your community

  • Provide rigor - appropriate level of difficulty and challenge for your age group or grade level?

  • Allow for multi-disciplinary learning? Example: blend science and math and writing.

  • Consider an appropriate/realistic timeframe for you to finish in the time you have allowed?

  • Include experiential opportunities so a chance to have your students develop the project by going out into the community, build or design something, etc.?

  • Use world as a classroom, connecting with others/experts and opportunities both digitally and in person?

  • Utilize mentors? These are often people with a strong knowledge of the project topic, who can assist the teacher in conducting the project. The teacher does not have to be the content expert. Example: A local anthropologist may mentor students in working on a local archeological dig your students are working on.

  • Involve meaningful learning and engagement for all the students involved? Does every student on a team have a meaningful and responsible role.

  • Develop inspiration and interest in the students?

  • Contain relevant and meaningful ideas or knowledge? Some projects are not worth the time spent.

  • Challenge the students to think at a deeper level such as the big picture, systems thinking, design thinking, etc.?

  • Have a final product or action that is authentic ore causes change or serves a meaningful purpose?

  • Have built in physical and emotional safety for all students?

  • Contain a realistic budget?

  • Fit within political/cultural guidelines or expectations of your school or community?

Example from Liger:

The first dinosaur footprints were discovered in Cambodia by the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy in 2016. Students found out about this while interviewing Ministry officials about another project being conducted. Since the government and universities in Cambodia currently do not have the capacity to study such a find, students and staff decided to consider a project around the dinosaur footprint discovery.

The project fit many of the criteria, for example:

  • Developing inspiration and interest in the students - developing a brand new discovery in your country is quite motivating. Also, dinosaurs are fascinatingto many people in the world, including Liger students!

  • Providing rigor with anappropriate level of difficulty and challenge – before starting,students and staff knew nothing about paleontological research methods, communicating a new discovery, etc.

  • Use world as a classroom, connecting with others/experts – science experts from around the world helped provide the skills and knowledge needed for the project

  • Allow for multi-disciplinary learning –understanding ofpaleontology includedfield research, dinosaurs, working with government officials, writing research paper, creating a documentary, interviewing, surveying, reading about dinosaurs, and a lot more.

Deciding Your Big/Essential Questions

Decide the big or essential questions you will try to answer when this project is complete.

It should drive everything you do in the project.

Good projects don’t have a large number of questions. Sometimes, even one good question is enough.
Work together with students to determine these questions.

Take the necessary time to establish your questions. It does not necessarily have to happen immediately. It may take some time to learn about the topic before making decisions.

Example from Liger:

At Liger, the project facilitator works with students at the beginning of the project to determine the big or essential questions that will be addressed during each one of our projects.

This is not always an easy process and may take some time. Students often need to know enough about the context of the project, background knowledge or even have some field experience before really finding great essential questions.

During Liger'son the Dinosaurs in Cambodia project, the following questions were developed after some information gathering, some interviewing, and a lot of discussions.

Essential Questions

  • Did dinosaurs live in Cambodia? What kind, and where? How do they fit into Cambodia’s natural history?

  • How do paleontologists collect evidence of dinosaur remains/imprints?

  • What does the Cambodian public know about dinosaurs? Why is it important for them to know about this discovery?

  • In what ways can we spread knowledge of this discovery to the Cambodian people and the larger scientific community?

  • How can this dinosaur footprint best be preserved? How can we work with the Ministry and landowners on preservation efforts?

Choosing What Students Will Learn

Decide the main learning goals or outcomes you will focus on for your project.

These are skills, knowledge or attitudes you want your students to gain after completing this project.

These goals may be based onlocal school expectations for learning experiences including standards, etc.

A project does not have to do everything. Choose several and do them well. A lot of unintended learning occurs in most projects, but make sure you achieve the goals you really care about.

Example from Liger

At Liger theyhave developed 10 characteristics of leadership that we center a lot of our learning around. For each project, theyselect three characteristics that we focus on. Students, of course, gain more skills during a projectthan the selected three but theyemphasize theseand are assessed on them.

Leadership Characteristics

Creative - perceive the world in new ways to imagine or create something new

Innovative - implementing methods, ideas, or products to introduce something new or improved

Problem solver - identify and define a challenge or need and create a plan to propose or achieve a solution.

Networker - collaborates through formal and informal situations to further specific goals

Dot Connector - to see, develop and create connections and relationships between different networks, ideas and/or experiences

Communicator - through reading, writing, listening and speaking effectively convey ideas and/or emotions in a way that other people understand

Competitive - the will to win and the drive to always be their best while accepting defeat or failure as an opportunity to grow

Opportunity-driven- identifies and takes advantage of appropriate opportunities as and when they arise

Passionate - displays a strong desire or conviction in an interest or idea

Calculated Risk Taker - working out of one’s comfort zone to do something bold; taking well-informed chances and understanding the difference between risk and reward

Creating Project Templates

Planning for projects is critical. By completing a project-based learning plan for each project allows for a greater chance of success.

Some projects cannot be completely planned out in great detail as unique opportunities often arise during the project that may enhance the overall project. For example, if the project entails writing a book about the geography of your local region, itmay not be planned to visit people during a trip of the region to document the geography. It is good to maintain flexibility of time to possibly interview this person.

For experiential aspects of your project that entail travel outside ofschool, a pre-trip is highly recommended to sort out logistics of the trip with students such as schedules, people you will meet, costs, etc.

This is a basic project template.

  • Project Summary: a short summary of the whole project

  • Essential Questions: big or important questions your students will answer when you finish the project

  • Project Outcomes: what students will be able to do/write/create/build

  • Project Mentors: people who will inspire and guide students through project

  • Field Experiences: real-life experiences your students will have to gain deeper perspectives

  • Skills acquired: skills you want all students to gain from the project

  • Core Curriculum Areas: subject areas or topics involved in the project (technology, math, science such as physical world (eg electricity); living world (eg biology); planet earth (eg. climate); the material world (eg. chemistry), literacy, etc.

  • Final Product/Action, etc. authentic final product or action that causes change or serves a meaningful purpose.

  • How do you address the following in this project?

    • Reading (resources)

    • Writing

    • Technology

    • Making a difference, project importance

    • The world as a Classroom

  • Students involved in this project

  • Timeline of Activities – outline of basic activities that will be completed for each week.

    • Week 1

    • Week 2

    • Week 3

    • Week 4

Example from Liger:

The project plan from theDinosaurs in Cambodia project

Making Meaning With Your Project Product
Ideally, the project will contain a final product or action that causes change or serves a meaningful purpose. If students are working on something real and meaningful they will be more engaged and will learn more deeply.

Dependent on theproject, this product can take many forms. Some examples of meaningful products or actions could include: podcasts, documentaries, reports, plays, installations, stories, inventions or designs, environmental cleanups, building projects, informative books, app development, etc.

Determine who or what entity would would best be served by knowing about theproject or product.

The main trick is to not just complete a video or play or document, but to make it have practical or useful meaning to someone or something in the real world.

Example from Liger

At Liger, most of our projects have a project contain a final product or action that causes change or serves a meaningful purpose.

A few examples of these products or actions we have done include:

  • Creating videos that are used in rural villages to improve health

  • Writing books on the economy and wildlife that are used in government schools throughout the country

  • Creating and implementing STEM curriculum for government schools

  • Developing a plan to help illegal fisherman find new sources of income

One of the products for the Dinosaurs in Cambodia product is this report created entirely be students. This research report is being sent to paleontologists around the world to help students identify types of dinosaurs found in Cambodia, etc. Also, the report is being presented by the Cambodian Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy to an Asian Geosciences conference in October, 2017. The report may also be distributed to media outlets in Cambodia to announce the first dinosaurs discovered in the country. This group of students is also finalizing a video documentary of the discovery, research methods used, etc.

This one report has a lot of impact beyond our school.

Sharation! Sharing/Celebrating the project

Celebrate the project by sharing with others what your students have achieved.

It is important to not just celebrate but to allow students to share their learning with others.

Find the right audience that may include parents, other students, school staff, community members, experts and mentors who have helped with the project, etc.

Make it informative. Make it interesting. Make it fun. Be creative.

Some ideas include:

  • Have a fair where visitors mill about talking to project groups.

  • Have students do a virtual Sharation where everything is put in a blog or website or Facebook page.

  • Have a student conference with sessions that people can attend

  • Have your Sharation out in the community at a location that is appropriate to your project. If your students are writing a book, celebrate and share with a book launch at a library or bookstore.

Example from Liger

Every 7 weeks at Liger theyhave a Sharation (sharing/celebration) where all project teams (We 8-10 projects going every 7 weeks) present their projects to all the other students, staff, and outside guests. People attending theevents include other school groups including teachers and students from other schools, parents, Cambodian organizations, business, and government officials. Most importantly, theyinvite people who have been involved with the projects such as mentors, people who have been interviewed, places we visited, experts, etc. These events usually last about 3 hours and presentations range from having a booth to screening a documentary to demonstrating original products, etc.

Assessing students

Give students feedback on how they did on the project. This can be formal or informal depending on the specific situation.

Rubrics or other assessments can be developed that include assessment of your learning goals and other aspects that are important for your school.

Example from Liger

At Liger, theyassess all students using a Liger Exploration (project) Rubric.

They focus on the 3 leadership characteristics, the knowledge they gained, and effort.

They discuss with each student at least once during and after the project is complete.

Students also rate themselves as well on all aspects.

This assessment is given credit and is a major part of their permanent school record.

See Liger's rubric

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