Sarah Anderson teaches middle school humanities and interdisciplinary studies at a place-based charter school in Portland, Oregon. Originally from rural Vermont, Anderson has also taught nature studies to urban middle school students in the California Redwoods, career skills to at-risk youth on an educational farm in Vermont and Civics and Global Studies at an independent school in Maryland. She earned a masters in education in Integrated Learning from Antioch New England Graduate School. Sarah is an alumnus of CWI’s Summer Institute and her essays on teaching are regularly featured in Community Works Journal.
The charter school where I teach has three areas of focus: environmental science, civics and art. Prospective parents know what environmental science and art look like, but the civics piece seems more of a mystery. Civics, as a subject, can trigger a glazed-over look in people’s eyes — it is associated with mandatory classes in high school where students memorize excerpts of the Constitution and learn the tedious steps a bill takes towards becoming a law. Many people think of civics as the “study of government.” But, by definition, civics is the study of what it means to be a citizen- the rights and duties of citizenship. There is a definite distinction between the study of government and the study of citizenship, and although they are certainly interconnected, noting the differences is essential in how we teach civics and raise citizens. Continue reading →
LA RiverLore is a highly innovative service-learning focused project for K-16 and community based educators. We’re connecting communities, students, and educators along the Los Angeles River. LA RiverLore is providing teachers in local schools the training, inspiration, collaboration, and connections needed to create standards focused service-learning curriculum around the River and its neighborhoods. Most importantly, LA RIverLore is connecting students in the greater Los Angeles area with their own local neighborhoods and communities through deep academically based service projects. Registration is now underway for our 2017 educator cohort. Space is limited!
CWI’s 2017 Summer EAST and WEST Institutes
on Service-Learning and Sustainability
Join dedicated K-16 and community educators, from across the U.S. and beyond, for an intensive week of inspired curriculum and program design work.Service-learning creates academically connected opportunities for students to contribute in the here and now. learn more • special rates • register online
RiverLore comes alive! We recently had the privilege to work with Paul Lowe and his amazing 4th-grade students at MacArthur Park Elementary. Using “Community Ethnography”, students explored their neighborhood, interviewing local residents, business owners, and recording the process with digital cameras. Our longer term goal is to help provide a portrait of the exceptional and culturally rich community that makes up the Westlake—MacArthur Park neighborhood in Los Angeles. The density of this neighborhood rivals that of Manhattan and is made up of many recently arrived immigrant families. A recent report estimates 147 people per acre in Westlake, four times the average density of Manhattan.
Place Based Service-Learning provides a unique opportunity to make a complete shift in our educational paradigm, at a time when we clearly need to strengthen the connective fiber of our communities. RiverLore is working with classroom teachers and community educators to help build shared common cause while promoting a sense of self-efficacy among our students.
LA RiverLore Students interview a local street vendor in MacArthur Park.
We are currently recruiting educators for our 2017 RiverLore Cohort. Partial scholarships are available on a need basis. Contact us by email for details
Join us this year for CWI’s acclaimed Summer EAST or WEST Institute. Spend an intensive and deeply rewarding week immersed in service-learning, sustainability, and place-based education, with inspired educators from across the U.S. and around the world.
“I had the privilege of working closely with Joe Brooks at CWI’s Institute and was impressed with his diverse experience working towards social justice through place-based service-learning, community building and sustainability. For a veteran educator, with twenty-five years in the independent school setting, it is rare for me to be challenged to go deeper in my thinking and Joe is is a master at doing this, all in his warm, flexible way.” Darcy Ellsworth Yow, Director of Service Learning at Marin Country Day School
CWI Institutes provide a unique opportunity to understand why service-learning works, how it works, and how to use it most effectively with your students. Join us for a transformative professional learning experience that will reshape the way you view the relationship between learning, teachers, and the community.
The learning system we’ve used in our country since the 1840s does exactly what it is designed to do. Brought to us from Prussia in the days when settlers traveled across America in prairie schooners, this system establishes standard grade level curricula to be delivered by teachers, and asks them to cover the content, test the students, and then move forward to the next lesson or unit. The system worked well enough to expose students to some basic reading, math, civics, and American culture in the days when higher levels of academic skill were not needed for most jobs and only a small fraction of students were expected to stay in school and graduate from high school. Much like the prairie schooner, it served its purpose in those times.
By the 1890s the days of the prairie schooner were numbered. Mechanized forms of travel began to replace the wagon and team that had so dutifully carried settlers across the plains and mountains. But the education system continued to hold onto the same model for standardized delivery of instruction. While coming into the greatest era of information and innovation in the history of humanity, we’ve held onto a model of instruction that is designed to cover, test, sort students into winners and losers and then move forward in the standardized curriculum. Even while models of competency-based learning are all around us, we have held onto our educational prairie schooner rather than innovating and changing into a model that is far more effective for the vast majority of students. Continue reading →
What kind of an environment does it take to promote learning? As educators and leaders, are we able to control and create the elements that support an optimal learning environment? So much has been written about school leaders and their roles as agents for change and support in school climate and culture. Many of us that have attended public school know that there is a subculture that functions well below the radar yet, still has an effect on the learning environment in a great way. This is what Barth calls the “non-discussables” (Grogan, 2013). Someone once told me that a child is unable to learn if they are hungry, thirsty, have to use the restroom, or are afraid. Well, I am living proof that you can actually learn under these conditions. But not optimally, I might add. And most likely the ‘what’ you will learn is probably not a learning objective defined in any lesson plan. The ‘what’ is a not often even considered an outcome by most school’s standards. School environment and culture is a complex system with many mitigating factors and outliers that contribute to what students learn, how they learn, and why they learn.
I was in the third grade. I loved my teacher. I was excited to learn. It had never occurred to me that someone would choose not to go to school. Yet, there were some things that I did not like. Continue reading →
From the Inside: Thoughts on Place-Based Education and Service-Learning at a Community College
Sometimes starting from scratch and going where no one has gone before is exciting; but a lot of times, it is just plain overwhelming! Initiating a place-based education project with a brand new community partner or in a class that’s never incorporated service before can be just what you need to re-invigorate your teaching; other times it seems too out of reach. Maybe you really want to add community engagement to your class, but you feel there are just too many pieces involved to pull it off.
For those times when you just don’t want to go it alone or start from the very beginning, try jumping into a project that already exists on your campus: some event or venture that has already been initiated and has room to grow. For example, my college has a program called “Everybody Reads” which focuses on one book a year in conjunction with our county library. Together, we select a book over the summer that will be featured in both country library events as well as in campus events and classes throughout the upcoming academic year. Each book is selected for its focus on a topic that is pertinent to our community. Continue reading →
Maureen Boyle and Patricia McPherson are award winning New England journalists. Boyle is an assistant professor and director of the journalism program at Stonehill College. McPherson is the information literacy and outreach librarian at Stonehill, who has helped in the development of several classroom projects
At one end of the church hall, 82-year-old Ramona Jackson was telling the college senior how, decades earlier as a young nurse in Boston, she refused to give in to the demands of a patient who didn’t want a black person treating him.
“I said to him, ‘I’m sorry, darling, but I’m not gonna assign you to any nurse I’m going to take care of you,” she recalled. “You better get used to this face.” Continue reading →