Community Works Institute director Joe Brooks, Local Learning, and the American Folklore Society’s Folklore and Education Section worked with specially invited educators at AFS’s annual international conference to explore how incorporating folklore and ethnography deepens student engagement in service-learning.
The workshop included hands-on engagement and discussion about best practices. Presenters included Joe Brooks, the founder and director of Community Works Institute (CWI). As a former middle school teacher, Joe brings a passion for creating school-based learning experiences grounded in community-based applications of knowledge and skills–with service, place, and sustainability at the core.
Joe also shared with participants his recent work with teachers, schools and students around the U.S. through an approach he calls Collaborative Ethnography.
In simple terms, this involves using a hybrid of service-learning melded with a somewhat non-traditional approach to ethnography.
This work focuses on bringing students and community members for common purpose through dialogue, “discovery based” story telling, and the public sharing of that. Joe feels this work is absolutely crucial in the current political and social climate. He also has firm belief, from his own experiences as a middle school teacher, that students can often be the very best people to bring a distressed community together.
Joe then facilitated a dialogue and exercises to illustrate best practices and ethical frameworks. Nancy Watterson, associate professor of social justice at Cabrini College, also presented on how a folklorist prepares her college students to work in community settings and with community artists. Translating mindfulness and awareness to global learning perspectives, students grasp tangibly–with minds and bodies–how people move, communities change, and organizations join forces in collective movements
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