This February ECSL was honored to have Cathryn Berger Kaye lead participants through a service learning immersion experience. Four Corners is a highly engaging activity that explores the stages of service learning first hand. Within the service learning methodology developed by Kaye, there are several elements that come in fours; four kinds of action research used to explore a community need and four types of service that can be performed, for example. Such concepts came to life during this dynamic experience. To help capture some of the discoveries made, here are “four” teachable moments participants explored as they immersed themselves in service learning:
Framing: One powerful motivator for service learning lies in the ability to frame the process from a student’s perspective. Their interests, skills and talents can be unveiled and utilized during the service learning process. Students can have a voice for societal issues they care about and be at the center of proactive ways to address their concerns.
Organizing: Students get real experience in community organizing as they explore questions like, “Who amongst us has skills and talents that can be put to good use during this process? Who in the community is doing something to address the societal issue at hand? How can we come together to provide a service for an unmet need in our community?”
Understanding: When students engage in authentic investigation about their community, they come to a deeper understanding about what is needed to support the cause. When they use action research, they immerse themselves in real-life discovery through activities like interviewing or conducting surveys. Students and teachers alike come to know Confucius’ adage: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
Reinforcing: Throughout the stages of service learning students get a chance to revisit skills they are building. For example, note-taking can be practiced when interviewing a community partner, and then reinforced as they do follow-up research with media content. Students may write letters to invite an expert into the classroom as a part of their investigation, and then revisit the skill again by writing thank you letters for their visit. Students develop proficiency for skills they are able to practice through repetition. They may come to see them as more valuable or practical too because they are serving a purpose within a real-world context.
Teachers, administrators and community organization representatives came together to explore these powerful elements of service learning. Four Corners: A Service Learning Immersion Experience became their road map for the service learning process. Now, they are equipped with tools to take their students on a service learning journey through the four seasons and to the four corners of the earth.