Service-Learning Expands Across a High School’s Curriculum

Ray Dumais of Goffstown High School, is an alumni of Community Works Institute’s Summer EAST Institute on Service-Learning. After he attended the Institute, Ray reported significant progress in developing service-learning opportunities at his school. He added, “

The Institute gave me all kinds of confidence. The variety of presenters was a nice cross section, and the site level work was really helpful.”

“The whole key is opening up options for students to learn outside the school, and to apply their knowledge to real-world situations, developing better citizens who have the habit of giving back to the community,” says Ray Dumais. “Our principal, Mark Roth, is not just an administrator but also a visionary who believes in this kind of work.” said Ray.”

According to Ray, Cindy Burns’ Junior/Senior biology class at Goffstown has begun a multigenerational project at the county nursing home. They are studying the aging process and different physical and mental challenges of old age. They will visit the nursing home several times to socialize with the elders, interview them, play games with them and observe. The students keep a journal and engage in regular reflective sessions, answering questions such as “What did we do?” “What do we keep and what do we redesign?” During another visit, they will talk to the nurses about what to look for in identifying physical and mental challenges. At the end they will compile all the information and give a presentation to the class. Cindy and Ray met with the nursing home director, the director of volunteers, and the activities director to talk about how the partnership could be expanded beyond a single project; they discussed various ways that the high school population could get involved with the nursing home residents.

Another multi-generational project is slated to begin with AP history students in Eric Romein’s class. They are starting a history club and plan to do projects with senior citizens at a nearby assisted living facility. Using Greg Sharrow’s advice from the Summer Institute, they plan to “begin with local,” interviewing the seniors about their lives and finding connections between local and national history. For example, they might interview a veteran of the Korean War, and discuss how the war affected families in the Goffstown area. Eventually the History Club students will join forces with students in the Video Club who will videotape their interviews. Once the History Club is formed, according to Ray, it will become a permanent yearly project.

Reana Reidy, teacher of an elective multigrade Spanish class at Goffstown, has two classes (a total of 60 students) involved in an Adult Education Center in the nearby community. They are

assisting nonEnglish speaking folks in registering for ESL classes. The project is taking place in collaboration with the Mexican Consul. The students are also reading childrens’ literature with the children of the immigrants, and leading other activities. The idea with each of these projects is to create ongoing partnerships rather than one-shot “projects.” Ray, with the support of his principal, Mark Roth, is encouraging all the teachers involved to give presentations at faculty meetings after their projects have borne fruit.

To gain site level support for their service-learning work, Ray and guidance counselor John Webb presented to the school board the concept of community-based education (which at their site includes both service-learning and an internship program). Goffstown is currently undergoing a three-year school reform program through Brown University called “Breaking Ranks” that involves integrating the community in the school in more active ways. To increase awareness of service-learning in the community, Ray and John are speaking to business and civic organizations like the Rotary and Optimists Clubs, and the Main Street Association of local businesses. Already they’ve had a few people call to ask for more information or help. They have one student going to the elementary school, so they are beginning to develop a partnership there. One result of that partnership is a Pen Pal project: First year teacher Emily West is coordinating with junior high teacher Lynn Ellis to develop a Pen Pal project between Goffstown 9th graders and 8th graders at a Lynn’s school. This will help both groups practice good communication and writing skills, and will help the younger students in the transition from middle to high school.

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