At our fall meeting, ECSL advisor Sammy Lyon outlined how planning for service learning fits seamlessly with the classroom planning you’re already doing. The article For Teachers Who Think They Can’t Do Service Learning accompanies the easy-to-implelement lesson planning tools that were presented and gives you a road map for integrating student-led action into the curriculum you already use. Download a free copy of the tools- Backwards Planning for Service Learning- to support your service learning curriculum.
On Saturday, April 16th ECSL joined with the Green Ambassadors Institute, a professional development program through Environmental Charter High School, to engage in a first-of-its-kind experiment: The Curriculum Hack. It was based on the shared experience of many teachers that there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. An educator is a kind of jigsaw puzzle expert. They are constantly fitting together the puzzle pieces (standards, time, current events, learning styles, youth interests) to create the big picture (a curriculum that best serves their students).
With so many factors to consider when deciding how to deliver content, teachers rarely use a published curriculum verbatim. They take out, add on, or adjust lesson plans to create something that fits the needs of the class. Teachers may do this in isolation or amongst their planning teams on campus. But at this spring’s BioDiversity Summit, Green Ambassadors gave educators access to a valuable resource in this process of tailoring curriculum- diverse perspectives.
In our increasingly interconnected world, there is a need to bring together all community stakeholders to create curriculum that helps students prepare for the challenges we face as a society. Everyone was invited to the table. Educators, students, community organizations, businesses and government leaders all lent their ideas and expertise. In real-time, this melting pot of perspectives helped shape curriculum for pressing essential questions we need to cover in our classrooms, like “How can we undo environmental injustices within our communities in order to keep people safe and healthy?”
At the start of the summit, ECSL led participants in a personal inventory activity that revealed each other’s interests, skills and talents through a guided interview process. Later, when it was time to hack the curriculum together, each member could reflect on their traits, background and experiences that would impact their group’s lesson planning process.
This year’s institute theme was BioDiversity, and the experience lived up to its name. The diverse skill sets present amongst each group member led to rich explorations of environmental justice themes for all grade levels.
Green Ambassadors has made available the lesson plans created in this collaborative curriculum development experience (where you can also access the Personal Inventory activity presented by ECSL).
We look forward to connecting with members and new participants alike at the ECSL Fall Meeting scheduled for September 27th at The Skirball Cultural Center from 3:15-5:30pm. Join us for another unique opportunity to network with a variety of stakeholders in the service learning community.
This winter’s ECSL workshop featured international service learning expert, Cathryn Berger Kaye, who helped us rethink the ways we engage students in reflection. Here, participants explore reflection strategies throughout the stages of service learning: investigation, preparation, action and demonstration. We share some of the work and responses here to help continue the dialogue about the importance of taking time for reflection and how we can consider a variety of ways to reflect- both large and small, quick or lengthy, and through a range of different learning modalities that reach all students. Take a moment to reflect on what strategies you see here that can be implemented within your classroom.
Repetition and reflection– two keys to solidifying new information. We strive to do this with our students so that their learning sticks, but do we do this with our own professional learning?
At our winter meeting, Cathryn Berger Kaye offered us insights that helped refresh our reflection stages of #servicelearning. We gained new tools to help add meaning and perspective to the service learning process- for both our students and ourselves.
Now, we would also like to offer you an opportunity for repetition to solidify these new skills even more! Below are links to the footage of this dynamic meeting, so that you can revisit and refresh your reflection techniques anytime. Or, watch with your colleagues and allow this footage to be your muse. Discuss and develop reflection techniques that make sense for your curriculum!
Cathryn Berger Kaye – How to Refresh 2/2/16
Cathryn Berger Kaye – What’s Your Idea? 2/2/16
Cathryn Berger Kaye – How Do You Reflect? 2/2/16
Cathryn Berger Kaye – Foundation of Reflection 2/2/16
Cathryn Berger Kaye – Ways to Reflect 2/2/16
Cathryn Berger Kaye – Reflection within 4 Stages of Service Learning 2/2/16
Cathryn Berger Kaye – Reflection Symphony 2/2/16
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.
In January, the Museum of Tolerance is offering top-notch educational trainings exclusively for CA based educators. A great fit for service learning practitioners is Rock Your World, a social justice program that engages upper elementary, middle and high school students, as well as higher ed/teacher training programs and community partner organizations.
Rock Your World is a perfect complement to service learning and project based learning experiences, technology integration and the Common Core.
The two day course is free. All costs, including travel and accommodations for those out of area, are covered. And, teachers can earn CEUs/LAUSD salary point credit.
The Museum of Tolerance is a powerful experience in and of itself. The exhibits and speakers, coupled with this program, will promote understanding of human rights issues, inspire youth voice, integrate digital literacy and strengthen curiosity while leaving students (and teachers) eager to take action about the things they care about.
January 8th and 9th
Rock Your World: Online Curriculum for Social Action
Museum of Tolerance
Register by Dec. 21st
(max enrollment is 65)
*Rock Your World, part of the Creative Visions Foundation, is a featured component of the Become a Defender unit of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights’ Speak Truth to Power curriculum.
“The humble question is an indispensable tool: the spade that helps us dig for truth, or the flashlight that illuminates surrounding darkness. Questioning helps us learn, explore the unknown, and adapt to change. That makes it a most precious “app” today, in a world where everything is changing and so much is unknown.”
Warren Berger, Author of A More Beautiful Question
Have you thought about how the role of questions will advance your service learning process this year? Students engaged in service learning are challenged to find and address authentic needs facing their community. To do this they must inquire about what is happening in the world around them. As the process of service learning gets underway in your classroom, it is important to help build a culture of inquiry that celebrates students’ questions as much as their answers. Use this guide to help you make questioning a vibrant part of your service learning culture this year.
1. Asking Questions About Ourselves
Knowing who’s in the room will be an essential resource for your service learning endeavors. What interests do your students have? This might give insight into the societal issues that will engage them or that they will find relevant to their lives. What skills and talents does each student bring to the table that will be of value as they design and implement their service plans? Service learning consultant and author, Cathryn Berger Kaye, developed the Personal Inventory process as a resource for student-centered service learning from the beginning of the experience. This activity can help you with an important motto for creating student voice and choice: To thine own students be true. Continue reading →
Every chef loves stumbling upon a great recipe- one that boasts carefully thought out steps and wholesome ingredients. Like a good chef, the service learning educator plans, prepares and serves healthy curriculum that provides rich, meaningful experiences to nourish their students’ engagement, social-emotional growth, and 21st century skills (to name a few). If you’re looking for a recipe for service learning success, you can find one in Cathryn Berger Kaye‘s A Baker’s Dozen: Guideposts to a Meaningful Service Learning Program. This article has all of the essential ingredients for establishing a vibrant and well-rounded culture of service learning within classrooms and schools. We’re honored to share these guideposts at our fall workshop and feature it here on our blog. Sink your teeth in and enjoy!
Are you looking to create an outdoor classroom by planting trees or a native plant garden on your campus? Join TreePeople on Saturday, October 4, 2014 for our FREE School Greening Workshop. This class will cover the ins and outs of planting and caring for trees as well as planting native plant gardens on school campuses including meeting district regulations. Mini grants are available for all participating schools.
Who: Teachers, Administrators and Eco Club Students
What: School Greening Workshop. See attached flier!
When: Saturday, October 4, 2014 9:00 AM – 12:00 NOON
Where: TreePeople’s Center for Community Forestry, 12601 Mulholland Drive Beverly Hills 90210
Mini Grants include:
1. A FREE project mentor and on-campus support with TreePeople staff
2. FREE tools and event day support for your planting or garden installation
3. FREE trees and plants for most projects
4. FREE gardening supplies
All participants must register at
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org