Monday, October 31, 2016

The Characteristics of Service Learning

At ASD there is an ever-developing understanding of service learning. Anecdotal evidence indicates that most members of our community recognize that service learning goes beyond basic elements of charity (e.g. fundraising) and volunteering. What is a bit more difficult is putting one's finger on what, exactly, service learning looks like. The core competencies of service learning were shared in an earlier blog post (here) but service learning is also defined by practical characteristics.   

The diagram above is currently being developed to support the understanding of service learning and what our children are involved in when they participate in it. The process is informally split into "internal" and "external" elements, meaning simply whether or not they are dealt with within a group of people (i.e. organization, class) or addressed by others (i.e. facilities and administration).   At the very center of the internal component of the diagram one will notice the learning objective. It is important that, no matter what the service is about, learning is at the forefront. 

The elements of investigation, planning and action imply a continuous cycle of action as it pertains to an authentic need, no matter whether that is dealing with waste on campus or dealing with poverty half way around the world.  Reflection and demonstration are, critically, an explicit part of the process as well.  

The external components are merely administrative necessities if students identify ways of addressing authentic needs through the use of events and/or fundraising. This extra level of accountability is used to ensure that events are appropriate and continue to make explicit connections to the learning. 

So why tell this to our non-student, non-teacher community?  Well, in building a communal "critical consciousness" it's important for us all to share common understanding and common vocabulary. In so doing we are able to move in unison in making our children and our entire community better able to contribute to a rapidly changing world.   

Monday, October 17, 2016

Highlights of a Great, Busy Week.

There are times when, looking around out campus, one cannot help but be impressed by the clear evidence of contribution that our students make on a daily basis. It really doesn't take long to see just how vested our students are. Take this past few days as an example.

On Friday SEENAH - both MS and HS - showed up in force to organize the annual Jumble Sale. By most accounts it went very well with hundreds of people visiting and a good amount both donated and purchased. They seem to have the system down as they arrive in the morning (following weeks of collection for our wonderful community) to set up, stick around to sell and support, and then, as if with surgical precision, they organize all the excess items to be donated to organizations so that they do not get thrown in landfill. Ms. Hickey was thrilled in what she described as the "most efficient" sale to date. But to make things even better, did you know that the proceeds of the event go to purchasing much needed products to create hundreds of care packages that are, later in the year, taken to those in need of such support?  The essence of service learning is both in the service itself and in the learning that goes with it, and both those were successfully exemplified on that day!

On Monday, MS science students, supported by Mr. Fox, were engaged in the creation of a new learning space. Proven practices show that the distance between learning spaces and the time spent learning in them is directly proportional. So why not set up a learning space for biological/ecological study up on the 3rd floor?  With the new space both MS and HS students will be able to access data and support learning related to the natural environment. Add to that the simple fact that interaction with gardens is proven to generate an appreciation for all things living, increase understanding of life systems and also increase empathy and mindfulness in students, this is surely a win-win for all!

And then there was World Food Day on October 17! The MS World Food Day flex group had been busily organizing the day and practicing facilitation of the event which highlighted the difficulties of subsistence food production and the multiple sustainability (nature, economy, society, wellbeing) elements that make eliminating world hunger a multi-dimensional problem with multidimensional solutions!  End7, a HS service organization focusing on the elimination of seven key illnesses worldwide, held an engaging class competition but took the time to highlight the importance of health promotion across the world and especially in the areas where these seven illnesses are most prevalent. 

If you're at home reading this please take the time to chat with your child about world hunger, about poverty, about how - apart from or in addition to the simple solution of financial support - these issues can be addressed. It is through conversations large and small that leaders are made, that learning takes place, and that contributor in all of us finds a way to look to a future with a solution mindset. 

Laurence Myers
K-12 Service Learning Coordinator

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Student Leaders Start Their Engines

As with the beginning of any school year so too this year;s has been a flurry of activity when it comes to student organizations. Most notable of these - from a service learning perspective - has been the kickoff of both HS and MS student organizations. A total of 43 organizations (14 of which are service based) were represented at the HS and six were ably introduced to the MS. The pictures below show a glimpse of our service organization presenters already contributing to their school community while building leadership skills along the way. 

Looking for learning, Mr. Laurence Myers, ASD's new Service Learning Coordinator, took a gander around the stalls in the HS, and asked questions at the MS presentations, to gauge the learning involved. Each time the questions were met with evidence of developmentally appropriate learning regarding the nature of the organization, the issues involved in it's mission, the activities that are undertaken as well as the connections between the organization's purpose and the world at large. 

Students were able to meaningfully present, create, analyze, persuade and engage their peers in ways that would have impressed even the most die hard critics. Their demeanor purposeful but approachable, their knowledge deep and their skills clearly evident they exemplified a great introduction to what student organizations are all about: Solid leadership, excellent communication, focused on their organization's mission. All great learning and the beginning of a what is already an inspiring year! 

HS Service Organizations for 2016-17:

  • Educating Girls Globally (girls' education) 
  • END7 (eradicating disease) 
  • Global Issues Network (addressing global concerns) 
  • High Tide (addressing marine ecosystems) 
  • Kids for Wish Kids (supporting children with life-threatening medical conditions) 
  • Little Wings (children suffering from physical injuries & deformities) 
  • PAWS (neglected animals) 
  • Room to Read (education for children) 
  • Save the Children (support children in extreme circumstances) 
  • SEENAH (supporting communities) 
  • SHINE (engaging with children with special needs) 
  • Sustain Our World (healthy lifestyle choices) 
  • The Children's Emergency Fund (children in humanitarian crises)

MS Service Organizations for 2016-17:

  • Kids for Wish Kids (supporting children with life-threatening medical conditions) 
  • National Junior Honor Society (varied service programs) 
  • Room to Read (education for children) 
  • SEENAH (supporting communities) 
  • Student Council (supporting school student body) 
  • Sustain Our World (healthy lifestyle choices)

Laurence Myers
K-12 Service Learning Coordinator