Join Us This Year! Early Bird Rates are Now

Don’t Miss It This Year • Space is Limited

CWI’s Summer WEST Institute on Service-Learning and Sustainability —Los Angeles, California

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

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

Building Critical Moral Consciousness Through a Service Scholars Program


“Service is not just about action, but must also be done with the conscious awareness of oneself and others, and with the commitment to constantly learning and acting as a global citizen.”

One member of the DSS Service Group to Siem Reap (Cambodia) photographs herself with a group of new friends, some of the Cambodian children she taught during her service trip. Her service group worked with the NGO Sunrise Cambodia to help provide education for economically disadvantaged children and youth in Cambodia.

These words, written by one of the undergraduate participants in New York University Shanghai’s Dean’s Service Scholars (DSS) program during the past academic year, exemplify the kind of learning DSS aims to provide. It also alludes to the kind of questions we, as two members of the team responsible for designing and facilitating DSS, sought to help our students explore in a meaningful and experiential way, i.e. questions such as: What is the meaning and value of community service? How is it relevant to one’s personal development and to developing a greater appreciation for the identities and experiences of others? What might the most responsible, helpful and transformative ways of relating to “the other” be? How might a commitment to community service be connected with the concept of global citizenship (a question especially relevant at a university like NYU, which espouses global citizenship and invites its applicants to “Make the World Your Major”)? What are some of the critical challenges our world faces and their causes? Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, International Schools, Service-Learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Educator’s Adventure in Los Angeles! Space is Limited

Join us for CWI’s internationally acclaimed Summer WEST Institute on Place Based Service-Learning and Sustainability.
Los Angeles • July 24-28, 2017 LIMITED SPACE
—Reinspire your curriculum! Join educators from across the U.S. and beyond. learn more:

Now is the time for project based curriculum that values the  uniqueness of PLACE, personal stories and reciprocal relationships, and community building.

CWI’s Summer WEST Institute immerses educators in a dynamic learning lab atmosphere, using one of the world’s most vibrant and culturally rich urban settings as our context. Join us for an adventure in learning to use “place” and the community as the classroom. Spend a deeply rewarding week immersed in service-learning, sustainability, and place-based education, with inspired educators from across the U.S. and around the world.

Summer WEST provides a unique opportunity to understand why service-learning works, how it works, and how to use it most effectively with your students. This is a transformative professional learning experience that will reshape the way you view the relationship between learning, teachers, and the community. learn more:


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Transformations: Taking the Leap as an Educator



As a classroom-based environmental educator, I follow the same schedule as most public school teachers. In the two-month breaks, I usually pursue other educational employment, and when possible, professional development. For the majority of my teaching time, I have worked with elementary students. If you asked me two weeks ago, I would have told you that elementary is my preference, and also the age group that is reached by my talents. Leave it to some middle school and high school students to shake up my teaching world in the last few days. A wonderful, eye-opening epiphany has occurred. Maybe I’d like to pursue secondary education and science teaching?

There’s nothing like a professional dust-up, a clearing away of the assumptions, an epiphany that I really had no clue was there. This surprise is one of the best I have ever had. I didn’t know that I would love high school students. I didn’t know that I would love helping them learn to teach. I didn’t know that I would relish teaching in a new way. I didn’t know that I would enjoy creating science stations for high school volunteers to share with visitors of all ages to a local botanic garden. I didn’t know that I would love this season in my teaching. In fact, I have been slightly worried about this summer. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit and that I wouldn’t find magic like I do in classroom-based environmental education. Continue reading

Posted in Environmental Education, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Teaching | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What Kind of Experience Do We Want for Our Children?


I have not written much for the personal this year. This has been due to a sudden and unexpected change in our family status. My wife and I have three daughters. The oldest is out of college, the second just completed her second year of college, and the third is a senior in high school this year. We were preparing ourselves for the next phase of life, when we came across a nine-year-old street boy — Max. Through a series of circumstances, we ended up taking him into our home. We didn’t initially plan to have him stay, but we very quickly found ourselves attached to him, and several months later went to court to gain legal guardianship of him. He has now become a central figure in our family, with much of our time and attention focused on him.

For quite a while, I’ve been thinking I need to do some writing about our experiences and adventures with Max, but have been grappling with exactly where to start. To be honest, it seems like every day with him brings a new adventure of sorts, and just when I think I want to write about one, another pops up that dominates my attention. However, recently, I read an article by Diane M. Hoffman, Raising the Awesome Child. It had me pondering a number of important topics related to Max, as well as to the early years with our daughters. I realized the place to start is with a topic I am passionate about…..schooling. Continue reading

Posted in International Schools, Teaching | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Vacancy is Where Great Things Happen”


Shawn is an Academic Support Instructor at Cushing Academy, in Massachusetts, and an alumnus of Community Works Institute (CWI).

I work (and live) at a boarding prep school in Massachusetts. Over the first two years that I worked there and taught the Community Service course, it has become apparent that because many of our students are not members of the local community, it’s hard for them (and us as a school) to establish a sense of place outside of campus. My work has involved bringing the learning piece to the service.

This also impacts the sustainability of our program. For many years the program has been a course that no one really “owned”. We don’t have a dedicated Service-Learning position, which leaves much of the outreach to whoever is teaching the course each semester. I’m lucky that I have experience with service-learning and establishing relationships with community resources. I was able to create a relationship with the local elementary school’s after school program twice a week. We just finished up our second year there, but there isn’t a consistent leader, which has created problems on site. So I was intent on finding a teaching strategy, philosophy, and/or methodology that I can implement at Cushing Academy. And, I found it! Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Service-Learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Place as the Context has Become a New Mantra for Me in My Teaching


Ciara is the education director for The Cathedral of St. Philip, in Atlanta, Georgia, and an alumnus of CWI’s Summer Institute on Service-Learning.

I went into CWI’s Summer Institute fairly blind; I was filling in for my supervisor who has a lot more experience as an educator and community leader. I was not sure what I would gain or what the week would hold.

My week with Community Works Institute was really an invaluable experience for my spirit. I was energized by the company of educators who have dedicated their work to collaborating with their communities to create positive change. I work at a large, wealthy parish that can often feel disconnected from the larger city of Atlanta. The teachers who attended the Summer Institute were from a wide variety of public schools, average to wealthy private schools, and universities. I was encouraged to know their work was not isolated within the walls of their own institutions. Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Service-Learning, Sustainability, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Shared Mission for Every Student and Every Teacher


Jonny is the Director of Service-Learning at Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles and is an alumnus of CWI’s Summer Institute on Service-Learning and Sustainability.

Wow. What a week! I’m not sure how to fully reflect on such a rich experience in summary form, but maybe a loose, informal reflection will still be helpful. I came into my week at CWI’s Summer Institute knowing very little about service-learning or education for sustainability. The only real experience I had was in place-based learning through outdoor education, so I was very familiar with learning about nature while in natural settings.

Before the Summer Institute I would have categorized “outdoor education” experience as essentially and intrinsically different from service-learning. Now I can’t help but think that the complete learning experience almost has to include service-learning, education for sustainability, and be place-based. I look back on my experience in so many different schools growing up and realize now that all the most impactful and memorable learning experiences I had included those three elements. I now realize that to treat community, place, and the greater goal of a sustainable relationship with our planet and all its inhabitants as separate from academic pursuits is to do one’s students, and one’s community, a great disservice. I also see that all complete education integrates the story of the individual learner, the story of their community, the environment, the greater story of the Earth, humanity at large, and the universe itself. This allows for a deeper understanding on the part of the learner as to where they fit in the big picture, and perhaps even what their purpose in the greater story might be. Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, Environmental Education, Place Based Education, Professional Development, Service-Learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mapping the Neighborhood: Experiential Learning as a Survival Skill


I’ve been teaching in the MacArthur Park/Westlake district of Los Angeles for ten years and have worked with a host of immigrant families. Most of them are from Mexico, and some of them have migrated from other cities and states in the U.S. 90% of the population at MacArthur Park Elementary School is Latino and the rest are a mix of White, African American, and Filipino. All of the families who attend the school are living below the poverty line.

MacArthur Park/Westlake district of Los Angeles considered by some to be a rough neighborhood. But I don’t see it that way. I can’t afford to. I began my career in LAUSD ten years ago when the school was MacArthur Park Primary Center. I was desperate for a job after leaving a charter school that was about to lose their charter So I taught English to a class of Spanish speakers whose parents opted for English immersion, not dual language.

The next year with the teacher layoff cycle, I was bumped across the street to Charles White Elementary School, previously home to Otis Art and Design. I taught 4th and 5th grade for five years and was handed the most challenging students because of low seniority. During those years I became the teacher I am today because experiential learning was my survival skill. I couldn’t teach without building on the interests of my students. One boy had a fascination with snakes, so we got a terrarium with two corn snakes. The classroom became a mini-zoo where students would bring their pets to class for a week, and we conducted research and generated investigations based on their inquiry. Charles White is also an arts-based school. One of the most interesting projects we did came out of a LACMA partnership. Marissa Dowling, a visiting photographer from London sent the students around MacArthur Park with cameras to take photos of things they found interesting. The photographs were a blend of artifacts and human interest stories. We had a gala with the Mayor in the LACMA annex museum on our campus. Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, LA River, Place Based Education, Service-Learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Art and Service-Learning for Social Change in Los Angeles


Aida is a teaching artist in Los Angeles, and an alumnus of CWI’s Summer WEST Institute, and a member of LA RiverLore’s teacher cohort. Aida’s goals include encouraging her students to get directly involved, beginning with establishing communication with law makers and people in charge of the LA River revitalization effort. She is working with her students to make positive change by going through the process required to propose and ultimately design and install public art.

I feel super excited to call myself an alum of an Institute with such important work. The ideas that were expanded on in this week of exploration will have to be constantly refined and understood in my practice as a teaching artist. I will have to continuously expand on them experientially throughout my artistic community practice now. Being a part of CWI’s Institute made me proud of the work I do and has inspired me to continue my work in community engagement through the arts. Service-learning, sustainability and place-based learning are all in the utopic vision for arts education. Taking CWI’s Institute was a reminder of the importance these factors have on deep learning experiences beyond what the classroom has to offer.

CWI’s Institute connected me with many tools, resources and models to strengthen these roles in my planning and in building in more moments for student lead, service based opportunities in lessons and projects and modeling and teaching sustainable habits for healthy communities. Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, Environmental Education, LA River, Place Based Education, Service-Learning, Sustainability, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time for More of Us to Be Heroes of Brain Diversity

Cover, test, and sort

One-size-fits-all instructional design eats brain diversity for lunch. When seeking personalized learning for a student with unique learning needs, you may confront educators who don’t understand learning differences, refuse to differentiate based on need, fail to follow written plans for instruction, or create bureaucratic obstacles and barriers for your child. Once and a while you find heroes, women and men who go way beyond the norm and stick out their necks to serve a student with different learning needs.

You work your way through the system, standing up for your rights when needed, and thanking those who lend a hand. But challenging the system can be a long and perplexing process. Often unquestioned along the way are the underlying assumptions of the system. Continue reading

Posted in Curriculum Development, Professional Development, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment