From Service to Social Justice, to Sustainability

Celebrating Our 22nd Year of Transformative Professional Development
2017 is About Place, Service-Learning and Sustainability
JOIN US at CWI’s 2017 Summer EAST or WEST Institute
—in Los Angeles, California, and Burlington, Vermont

_DSC0022csmJoin us this year for the world’s premier service-learning driven professional development event. Work with dedicated K-16 educators from across the U.S. and around the world. An unforgettable week of inspiring training, planning, and collaboration. CWI’s Summer Institutes feature expert training, curriculum planning, and collaboration opportunities. Veteran faculty/practitioners, model programs, guided support, curriculum planning, and more. learn more

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Fearless Teaching: Collected Stories

by Stuart Grauer,

FearlessTeaching 2015.qxp_Layout 1Stuart is a CWI contributing editor and veteran educator. His new book Fearless Teaching is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland. There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you. more information at:

Posted in Elementary Education, Ethnography, International Schools, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Small Schools, Social Justice, Sustainability, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Community, Confucius, and the Moving Vehicle

By Joe Brooks, CWI Founder and Director

Chinese University of Hong Kong

CWI Institute: Chinese University of Hong Kong

We are arguably at a moment of societal crisis, and I would add, facing a crisis of community. Place Based Service-Learning and educating for Sustainability provides a unique opportunity for making a much needed shift in our societal and educational paradigm, refocusing at a time when, by nearly everyone’s estimation, we need to return to the essential roots of community.

Those roots include valuing our diversity, shared common cause, and building a sense of self efficacy among our students, around creating positive social change. But for all of the enthusiasm I encounter in schools for this sort of larger thinking, there are clearly serious challenges to doing so. Working recently with university faculty in China, I was struck by both their innate grasp and their sense of urgency for this work, coupled with the desire to reconnect with the traditional Confucian ethic of transcendent ideals for society, echoed in their reverence for the work of John Dewey.

Changing tires on a moving vehicle is a metaphor that I often use in keynotes, institutes, and my workshops with teachers and administrators, to describe the difficulty in actually create deeper lasting change in schools and institutions. Any program in motion, especially with the size, scope, pressures, and complexity of many of today’s schools makes for tricky business when one considers making real change. But I have indeed watched public and independent schools, universities, and community programs revisit and reconnect with their purpose recentering their pedagogy around service and “sense of place,” with concrete results, often including community members and students in that process.  learn moreprofessional development opportunities

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“Kids Get It!” Waste Reduction and Service-Learning

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Two Administrators Reflect on Service-Learning

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East LA Interchange: A Story of Community and Change

Manuel from El TepeyacEast LA Interchange tells the story of working-class, immigrant Boyle Heights, the oldest neighborhood in East Los Angeles. The question of whether an evolving Boyle Heights can preserve its unique culture and history along with a desire to create new opportunities for its residents is one that many communities throughout the country are currently facing. In East LA Interchange, NYU historian John Kuo Wei Tchen says, “Places like Boyle Heights are literally on the cutting edge of what this country is becoming. It’s not based on making more money, moving further and further away from other people. It’s based on the new kinds of social relationships that can happen in a mixed and mingled kind of community that really makes up the promise of what this country should be about.”

East LA Interchange tells the story of how one neighborhood found its political voice in its fight against the largest freeway interchange system in the nation. Though there are different issues today, these activist residents are still organizing and speaking out for their rights as a working-class, immigrant, community of color. The film asks if Boyle Heights as we know it will survive the next round of challenges from environmental pollution, industrialization, development and gentrification. East LA Interchange provides a compelling look at what the future of America can be if communities like Boyle Heights work together to secure our nation’s pledge of providing justice for all. learn more

Posted in Ethnography, LA River, Place Based Education, Social Justice, Sustainability, Uncategorized, Video | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education

In Bloom in Santa Barbara
tempantiochPromising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Orfalea Family Children’s Center
University of Santa Barbara, West Campus,, Santa Barbara, California
This all-day conference brings together professionals who are redefining what’s possible in early childhood education. Children stomp in puddles, whittle sticks, paint their faces with charcoal, take care of animals AND expand their vocabularies, do real math, conduct investigations and develop resilience in nature-based programs. Presenters include Community Works Journal contributing editor and Antioch NE senior faculty member David Sobel. Come join the dialogue.
Saturday, November 5, 2016, from 9:00 am–4:00 pm.
download flyer For more information: contact Kelly Pena, 805-962-8179,,
or Peg Smeltz, 603-283-2301,

Posted in Curriculum Development, Elementary Education, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Small Schools, Sustainability, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Notes From New Mexico: Out of a Rut

Notes From New Mexico: Out of a Rut

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.”—John Dewey

As educators, we are often creatures of habit. We have the lesson plans that work. We have the comfort of favorite books to share with our students. We have our beginning-of-the-school-year routines down pat. We find our groove in teaching fourth graders or the same subject for the ninth time. Then something hits us, that we are not in a sweet spot, but a professional rut. img_1554

Routines can be helpful, but very quickly they can become ruts. While much of teaching is filled with routines and rituals, how can we keep ourselves out of the ruts and our students in the lights of inspiration? How do we even know we are in a rut? It can be hard to tell, especially when we find relief in the familiar.

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2016 Global Folklorist Challenge!

2016 Global Folklorist Challenge:  Connecting Your Community to the World
By Betty J. Belanus, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

2016-folklorist-challenge-home2-nocta2I remember the first time I joined a fellow graduate student at the Indiana University Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology to make a video on a tradition bearer.  It was early spring, and we were visiting a Southern Indiana maple syrup maker, shooting in what is now an antiquated video format, through the steam coming off the fragrant boiling sap.  It was thrilling to capture the action and the wise words of the syrup maker on video, and then to edit the footage into a short story about this old, but still very much alive, tradition.

Nowadays, young students shoot and edit their own videos, of a much superior quality, with smart phones.  But the excitement of capturing the words and actions of a living tradition is still as great.  Through the 3rd annual Global Folklorist Challenge, students aged 8 – 18 can work individually or in a group to produce a short video, slide set or podcast about a tradition bearer in their community and share it with the world.  The short media products are judged, and prizes are offered.  All of the entries, whether they are prize winners or not, are placed on a growing interactive map of the world, including, to date, media pieces from the U.S., China, Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, Taiwan, India, Canada, and Poland featuring musicians, craftspeople, cooks, and even the makers of low rider cars.

The Challenge includes an extensive educator resource pack to help teachers and mentors guide students through the process.  Students and their mentors are invited to send in questions and comments along the way, and new “tips and tricks” are added during the period leading up to the due date of November 30, 2016.

Check out the Challenge today, and help encourage students to participate!  The excitement of learning something new about their community, and seeing their work included in an international platform, can be theirs in the near future.

Teacher Resource Pack:

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LA RiverLore: Professional Development in Real Time!

riverloreLA RiverLore! a Professional Development Project
in Real Time, in Los Angeles, CA

LA RiverLore is an exciting place based service-learning PD program, connecting schools and communities along the Los Angeles River. LA RiverLore is providing teachers in schools surrounding the Los Angeles River with the training, inspiration, collaboration, and connections needed to create standards focused service-learning curriculum around the Los Angeles River and its neighborhoods.
contact us
Posted in Curriculum Development, Elementary Education, LA River, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Service-Learning, Social Justice, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Civilization and Stone Age Emotions

Star Wars Civilization & Stone Age Emotions

strikeThat’s who we are … We could very well be a developing country.

Take a look: we are all getting our new credit cards with computer chips, something that has been long in coming. Have you tried using your card, though? I routinely walk to a counter, see the chip-enabled card reader, and when I go to use it, I’m met with this halting remark by the cashier (that we have cashiers, still, is another matter): “Wait. No. It doesn’t work. Please slide your card instead.” What? In Chicago — this the 21st Century in the U.S. , mind you — teachers may go on strike because they have been working without a contract. Hell, there may not be enough money to pay them. read entire essay

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