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

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 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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Educators Finding Power in Collaboration and Mutual Support

By JOE BROOKS

With CWI’s annual Summer Institutes on Service-Learning and Sustainability now well into their third decade, we’ve been privileged to share the work with educators from an incredibly diverse set of experiences and backgrounds.

Most teachers or administrators can’t afford the “luxury” of networking with peers if real planning is not taking place. CWI’s Summer Institutes provide a way for both needs to be accomplished in a powerful design lab atmosphere. In the words of Abbie Andrews, a CWI alum and French teacher from New Hampshire, “The Institute reaffirmed my hope that there really are people and organizations out there that are not simply idealistically chipping away at insurmountable challenges to “save the world; they are methodically, carefully, thoughtfully planning and implementing ways that our communities and environments can survive and sustain. It wasn’t just ideas, it was action.”


We’ve all struggled sometimes to bring tight focus and real action to our pedagogical beliefs and goals—goals that in the right setting ring clear as a bell but are often infinitely harder to work out back “home” when reality sets in at our respective schools. We do our best work when we have the power of supportive colleagues to amplify and ground the significance of what we truly wish to be about as educators. And we do our best thinking, learning, and planning work when we are collectively focused on creating a plan of action that actually works—surrounded by colleagues who share our vision and are ready to help us put our vision into practice. That, in essence is what CWI’s Summer Institutes are all about. The Summer Institutes represent a unique opportunity to create real and powerful projects, programs, and curriculum in a safe and supportive atmosphere of supportive colleagues. Colleagues with experience who are equally invested in our success—real projects that work in the real world that we teach in, this is what we are collectively about.

After three decades now, we also know that there are a vast number of educators out there who want and need to be connected to something larger than themselves and know that this will invaluably support their work with students. Join us this summer, in Los Angeles or Vermont. Your colleagues are waiting for you. learn moreregister now

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Finding and Working with Like-Minded Educators

By JOE BROOKS

A clear awareness of the need for connection and community-building within the teaching profession led to the launching of Community Works Journal in the mid 1990’s, as a way to create connections and bring community focused teaching to a wide audience of like-minded educators.

The response has been extremely heartening, with the Journal now reaching hundreds of thousands of educators around the world. Feedback from our educator readers led us to create intentional and active opportunities for teachers to support each other. CWI’s acclaimed Summer Institutes on Place Based Service-Learning being one important opportunity.

“The thinking on my own is possible because of opportunities to run intellectually deep in the company of others….”

— CWI Summer Institute Participant

With a dramatic increase in interest by schools in using Place Based Service-Learning and Sustainability, educators from across Canada were loudly passionate about focusing learning on their local community, at an extended regional CWI Institute and training.

Since 1995, we have seen thousands of teachers from nearly every U.S. state attend our CWI Summer Institutes, along with educators from many international schools.

Educators have thrived in these collaborative design based professional development experiences, taking their passion and learning back home with the tools, skills, and confidence to deepen and broaden their local programs. Continue reading

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Finding the Whole Child in Education Reform

By CHRISTOPHER NYE

Big challenges lie ahead — fixing the economy so that it more equitably serves everyone, not just those with the wealth and power; rebuilding democracy so that it is no longer hijacked by lobbyists and corporations; and redirecting cultural life away from decadent diversions and violence but toward higher purpose. Addressing these and other challenges like global warming will demand more than competent workers and participating citizens. It will demand people with a broader vision and a higher and evolving humanity.

An excellent article not long ago in Community Works Journal by Hector Vila addresses this demand from the point of view of teachers and their responsibilities within the broader culture. In what follows I use a different perspective that I believe complements what Dr. Vila had to say.

Think about those, now children, who will be called upon one day to supply solutions in these three spheres. The problems are daunting and will take decades to resolve, but don’t we owe it to those who are now young and in our charge to equip them to handle the world we leave in their care? We can begin immediately to instill the qualities needed to create a new vision and a vibrant society.

How can this be accomplished? Continue reading

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The Bat Cave: Accessing the Deeper with Our Students

By STUART GRAUER

Dr. Stuart Grauer is a teacher, the founding Head of School at The Grauer School, and Founder of The Small Schools Coalition.

Sean Preci’s winning high school surf team set out for the coral reef breaks and sandbars of Panama’s Bocos del Toro archipelago, but even the sunniest trip has its shadow side, it’s Inferno… as Dante cast it, “Midway along the journey” our surfers found themselves drawn to such a place, “where the straightforward pathway had been lost:” The bat cave of Bocos.

Luke, class of ’17, not completely with a straight face, has asked me to tell about this place and so here is an accounting, in three cantos.

I. “It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream.” — Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

There was a dull, rhythmic flutter and I could not discern if this was sound or feeling. The ceiling fan came into subconsciousness and I lay still, resisting wakefulness, as a throbbing in my right knee actuated a vision of a slick, dark rock face. The close-up pans out into the wide angle. The Caribbean. The jungle. The day before.

Rutilio Milton, an indigenous Ngöbe, is steering our panga along the mangroves along Bastiementos Island, making our way to the river mouth, and the mangroves are getting thicker, the transition to the wild. We pass a tiny dock and out front a father and son hold the corners of a tablecloth, sliding an edge into the water and pulling up on both ends, then sliding out sardines into an aluminum pot. Soon we approach a tiny brown clearing, and a dark bird with tail dipped in yellow flies over and perches, making a loony call from another world. Rutilio calls it an Oropendola. Our boat draws into the mouth of the winding cabrada, the stream, and is swallowed. The canopy thickens overhead and presently there are echoey sounds and heavy air. The panga slows, all the students’ eyes circling, adjusting to the darkening. Juan Diego is saying, “My friends tell me private school is sheltered and I try to explain things like this, and they can never understand.” Two white-faced monkeys hang above us in a tree like emperors of the branches. Continue reading

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Support Your School Service Program with On-Site Professional Development

We Support Local Schools and Community Organizations
Since 1995, Community Works Institute (CWI) has worked with school and community educators — across the U.S. and internationally — in support of building teaching practices that connect K-16 students and curriculum to their local community and the world. Since 1995, we have worked closely with thousands of educators from nearly every context and geography, large and small, public and independent — from Manhattan to Los Angeles, and from Warsaw to China. testimonials

We guide powerful training and collaborative planning experiences for school and organizational faculty, working with local teachers and administrators to craft a customized training specific to local context and needs.

Our support for schools focuses on helping educators integrate place based service-learning, and sustainability within the curriculum, as a central part of every student’s K-16 experience. Service-learning is associated with higher student engagement and achievement, improved school climate, and greater teacher effectiveness.

We Support Educators by:
• Providing high quality training, consulting, and professional coaching;
• Offering annual open enrollment
Summer Institutes;
• Showcasing resources and curriculum examples that work;
• Publishing and sharing teacher created work;
• Connecting practitioners in the field.

Continue reading

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Teaching to the Personal through Community Focused Learning

BY JOE BROOKS

Sifting through themes that revolve around creating and supporting educational experiences that build community and foster meaningful learning, it’s connecting school work to a larger purpose, to the self, to experience that resonates. As it was “then” is how it is now and many of us remember our own school experiences as not so different, regardless of decade. But there ARE schools and teachers working to change the paradigm.

Most teachers, parents, and communities DO support students experiencing school as an early act of civic participation—especially if that participation is directly connected to academic learning. And, they DO value the local in learning, especially when they understand the effect. Service-Learning as a teaching strategy is a most direct way to achieve this.

(Interviewing community elders is one of the most obvious examples, among many. Pictured above “The Great Migration Documentation Project”) Continue reading

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Why We Should Embrace Personal Stories in Our Teaching

by JON MADIAN

It seems that maturing the human heart depends on developing our insight into other people’s situations; their challenges, sensitivities and talents.

A reasonable hypothesis is that our most fundamental values are motivated by our drive to serve all living systems. This perspective and the healing actions flowing from it are a core instinct for the healthy development of humanity. The quality of our lives, and even our survival, calls upon us to live in intimate appreciation, humility and empathy — empathy for others and for ourselves.

From TED Talks to This American Life and Story Corps, telling our personal stories creates a deep understanding of the person who has lived through the details of their story — from difficult circumstances, temptations and dangers, to redemption by living with struggle, courage, patience, friendship, grace, and transcendence — to name some strategies for traveling the path to personal growth through authentic problem solving.

Oprah, when speaking about her work as a storyteller, begins by saying that she views all of her work as being in-service. Perhaps this realization of living a life in-service is the guiding principle when our hearts speak. Continue reading

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Mindfulness, Empathy, and Insight

Intentional service-learning cultivates mindfulness, empathy, and social action. Join us for CWI’s K-16 Summer Institute on Service-Learning and Sustainability. —Los Angeles and Burlington, Vermont.

learn more: http://bit.ly/1PCRv6u

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Teaching for Mindfulness, is Intentional

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Posted in Curriculum Development, Elementary Education, Environmental Education, Ethnography, Higher Education, International Schools, LA River, Place Based Education, Professional Development, School/Community Gardens, Service-Learning, Social Justice, Sustainability, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moving Beyond the Classroom Walls in Los Angeles

By PAULA COHEN

Paula Cohen is a veteran teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District. She uses service-learning to create meaningful and relevant experiences for young people and is passionate about connecting our schools and communities. Paula is an alumnus of Community Works Institute’s (CWI) Summer WEST Institute on Service-Learning.

Participating in CWI’s Summer WEST Institute was a ground breaking experience for me. For years now, I have felt the isolation of being in a traditional classroom. I have cajoled, often begged fellow teachers to collaborate on projects. I don’t understand why it should be unique for a teacher to enjoy the company of young people and get excited by the process of group learning. I don’t want to be unique; I would rather be the norm in this case! I suppose the inevitability of NCLB is that it has caused many teachers to lose sight of the big picture and the meaning of education. The media has demonized us and our districts demoralize us. Still at some point, we have to rise to the occasion that these young people are here right now, ready to receive an educational experience from us and it is up to us how we are going to construct that. At CWI’s Summer WEST, I met like minded educators who could see beyond the limitations, who thought outside the box, who were willing to ask big questions and delve deep into the answers. It felt like coming home. Continue reading

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