Special Premium Early Bird Rates are Now, for 2019 CWI Summer Institutes

CWI’s 2019 Institutes on Place Based Service-Learning and Sustainability
—Los Angeles, California and Burlington, Vermont

PLAN AHEAD 2019 Institute Registrations are Now!
Register Now w/ a Special PREMIUM Early Bird Rate • Space is Limited

Join K-16 and community educators, from across the U.S. and international schools, for a week of expert training, and inspiring curriculum design work. A unique opportunity to dig deep into place based service-learning and sustainability and how to use it most effectively with your students. This is your opportunity to move your classroom curriculum or school program to the next level. learn more

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The Blame Game and Lousy Learning Outcomes for Our Students


Can we find someone to blame for the sorry state of public education in America? For years we have played the Blame Game, looking for someone to blame for our lousy state and national educational performance.

During the decades of “school reform”, we’ve blamed the states, and added federal requirements for common learning outcomes and assessment systems. We’ve blamed the local districts, and stripped local authority over graduation requirements, course content, teacher evaluation, and hiring practices.

We’ve blamed the teachers, and added onerous evaluation systems, course requirements for certification, CEU requirements for ongoing licensure, and reduced pay and benefits especially for new teacher practitioners. We’ve blamed the unions, and changed tenure and employment rules to reduce their influence. We’ve blamed the administrators, and added layers of mandatory plans, reports, school grading systems, and other bureaucratic requirements. We’ve blamed the parents, the students, and modern media and technology. We are pretty good at blaming.

Maybe we’ve been overlooking something. Casting blame on others may not be a solution. Adding more pressure to our antiquated design structure for schools may not add up to any improvement at all. Continue reading

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Reducing Dementia Through Creative Community Building in Nigeria


Traditional Awori dancers.

Dementia is group of related symptoms associated with ongoing decline of brain functioning resulting in memory loss, problems with thinking speed, mental sharpness, language and understanding. Dementia currently represent an urgent health problem among Aworis in Nigeria. The aowris are thought to be the oldest indigenous group in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Association for sport science and Aleduine estimates that one in ten Awori in Lagos is living with Dementia, although only one in three may know he/she has the disease. Aworis in Lagos state appears to be particularly vulnerable to Dementia. Their disproportionately high rates of this disease and other health problems appears to be related to insufficient access to education, information and health services as well as their lifestyle, which includes Nutrition and physical activity.  Continue reading

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Experience and Relationships Matter

Abington Friends School, a Quaker-based, coed school serving children in preschool through twelfth grade, located in Jenkintown, offers its Upper School students this real world experience through The Center for Experiential Learning.

Under the direction of Rosanne Mistretta, the Center is taking the school’s values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equity, and stewardship, and combining them with unique opportunities ranging from field trips to professional settings to workshops on entrepreneurship. Students are able to connect with real world mentors, engaging with local professionals in fields such as medicine, business, and communications, to learn more about their careers.

“Through the sharing of experiences, our students are actively learning — something we value and encourage at Abington Friends. They are understanding possibilities, connecting to opportunities and making an impact on the world,” said Mistretta. Continue reading

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Change Challenges All of Us


The Franklin Farm in Guilford became an important early partner for the school’s efforts to build community.

Like many other towns in Vermont, Guilford has seen significant changes in its character and composition over the past several generations. Not too many years ago Guilford was strictly a farming community, with over 25 active dairy farms operating within its borders. However, over the past several generations the face of Guilford has changed considerably. More a residential community than a farming community. By the turn of the century in 2000, there were now but six working dairy farms in town. This change from a farming to a residential community was not been an easy one for the town.

As I began my tenure as principal at Guilford Central School in 1990, the town was going through what seemed like a major catharsis. There existed a clear tension between residents that reflected the changes the town was experiencing. In an attempt to better understand the dynamics of the town I now worked in, I spent one afternoon talking with the long time minister of the local church. She shared with me how elders in town had broken into tears over the loss of a sense of community in their town. These citizens, who grew up recognizing everyone in church on Sunday, were deeply saddened as more and more of the faces at Sunday services were unfamiliar to them.  Continue reading

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My Favorite Lesson Plan


My favorite lesson plan occurs on the first day of the last quarter in my Physics class. The class, populated largely by high school seniors, has just finished building Rube Goldberg machines, and is ready to slack off during the approaching warm spring days before graduation. Over the course of about three days, I open them up to a new kind of problem solving, and a new kind of problem.

Once I have completed my lesson — Introduction to Engineering Problem Solving — the warm spring days will have to wait, for there is compelling work to do, and never enough time to do all that they would like to accomplish. At the end of three days, I want my students to have a basic understanding of the steps that engineers use to solve problems, develop a sense of comfort in the venue in which they will solve their problems, and find empathy, compassion, and the dawning of some affection for the students with whom they will work. For many, this is their final high school science experience, and after they have solved many paper-and-pencil problems, and built simple devices with constraints, I want them to work toward solving a complex real-world problem Continue reading

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LIFE: Designing the Lifeline to Independence For the Elderly Project


The LIFE Project (Lifeline to Independence For the Elderly) is a major collaborative effort between the American Red Cross Greater Buffalo Chapter and over ten community organizations. It is a pilot program in its first stages. This program allows senior citizens ages sixty and above to remain in their homes. Volunteer teams of youth and adult mentors provide in-home services, including snow removal, routine home maintenance, home safety checks, and friendly visiting. Elderly people are able to maintain their independence by living at home, and the volunteers are able to build lasting relationships and provide service to their community. Continue reading

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A Beacon Aglow: An Institute of Community in The Mountains of Vermont


8th grade student leading 2nd graders on a trail walk in Guilford, Vermont.

I’d like to share an experience that gave me greater confidence in how much of an impact Place Based Service-Learning can have on improving education and the quality of life, in this case in a small, rural Vermont community. This story also connects to the crucial importance of social and emotional learning in this entire process.

Some years ago, back in the late 1990’s, I traveled to the southeastern corner of Vermont, just short of where Vermont borders New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The community was Guilford, and the school I visited was a small K-8 school with a staff of approximately 35 teachers. As I drove along the windy roads following a quiet brook, I smiled thinking about the first time I traveled the road with a colleague anxiously waiting for our first encounter with a new grant site (one of 49 that year). The library that day was filled with wide-eyed, tiny faces staring at our business like suits. I guessed this was quite out of the ordinary for this school. Within the crowd was a young 7/8 student named, Becca Tustin, who described her involvement with the “shoe drive” which turned into a pile of 2,000 shoes, boots and sneakers to be given to needy members in the community. We melted as the children told their rich, engaging stories that still linger among the shelves and books of the library today. Continue reading

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It Takes Caddisfly Larvae to Raise a Child

By SUSIE DENEHY , Staff Naturalist/Teacher, Harris Center for Conservation Education

We stand in the flowing waters of No-Name Stream in Antrim’s McCabe Forest. Our feet rest on the slippery cobble and the brook’s current tugs at us. We are dressed for a raging river, with full body waders, life jackets and mosquito netting. Yet, here we stand in water no higher than our ankles. We laugh, pointing at each other’s new attire. One fifth grader says, “Imagine if you had to dress like this every day.”

I can imagine it. I would gladly don rubber pants and sport high geeky galoshes, just to spend my days exploring the rocky shallows of our local streams. I am hoping that by the end of the day, my students will feel the same way, that they, too, will become stream-walkers and brook readers. Continue reading

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Register NOW w/ a Our Very Best Early Bird Rate of the Year. Bring yourself or your school cohort-team. learn more: https://bit.ly/2pjtPRp
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Smaller Schools Build Close-Knit Communities and More Positive Learning


“The size of the school does not inhibit personal interaction; it encourages it. Small schools typically serve a community nucleus. This invites strong support from parents and community members as well as closer working relationships among the school staff. In a small school it is not unusual for teachers, administrators, and school board members to know each other well. This can lead to easy acceptance of new ideas among friends as well as a strong sense of identification and belonging.” — ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.

I’ve been closely following the school improvement plan in my town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. As an early childhood educator for the past 15 plus years I take a natural interest in all things school related. I own and run a small progressive preschool in a neighboring town and many of our students go onto Winthrop or Doyon or other local public schools.

I also live in town and will eventually have two little ones in the school system and need to keep in myself in the loop with what our community is doing for it’s children. I’ve attended the meetings, read the letters to the editor, and followed on social media. I am in favor of keeping two smaller schools in our community. (not consolidating) Continue reading

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