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.
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
Service learning offers students authentic opportunities to construct their own knowledge versus being told the “right” answer. With service learning, there often isn’t one right answer, outcomes are open-ended and definitions are subjective and changeable. In fact, with service learning, students are able to continuously construct and deconstruct what they know through practices like research and reflection embedded in this learning process.
At ECSL’s fall meeting participants were offered many opportunities to experience this for themselves. First, participants worked together to build definitions of community service versus service learning. Below is an example of how people represented the similarities and differences between these two concepts.
Let members of your own school community construct their understanding of community service and service learning by seeing this activity in action here. Added bonus: the method can be adapted to define and distinguish many other concepts in your classroom, too!
Afterwards, and the highlight of the meeting, was the opportunity to hear stories of how three student groups engaged in service learning at their respective schools. With each presentation, their ownership of the process shined through. These students experienced the power of constructing knowledge through service learning. Featured at the meeting were an elementary water awareness project, a middle school STEAM partnership with a local charter school, and a high school sustainability audit with a local business. You can find footage of these stories from the meeting here. Witness the 5 Stages of Service Learning in action and consider how these experiences can be adapted to meet the needs of your grade level and curriculum.
Later, participants engaged in round table conversations to address each others’ questions surrounding their service learning practices. Participants self-selected into topics that were on their minds. Just like service learning itself, there was no expectation for one right answer to the issues brought forth. Instead, the conversations served to pool member’s collective knowledge and experiences and help them develop tools to address these areas of service learning. The photos below reveal how some groups represented their conversations.
“How do we get stakeholders at our school to see service learning as an integrated, essential element of learning rather than an add-on to the curriculum?”
“What is it that sparks students’ interest and investment in service learning?”
See how ECSL structured these open-ended round table discussions about the issues that mattered most to the participants here.
ECSL exists to bring service learning to life- through real-time stories, networking and support for your program challenges. At this meeting, your experiences were at the heart of the conversation. We look forward to continuing the dialogue at our winter workshop on February 2nd, 2016!
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.
“I’ve been an administrator, an educator, and a student, but none of those roles has defined me. At heart, I am a learner. I continue to reflect on where to lead, whom to follow, how to teach, and what to learn.” –Holly Chesser, Education Blogger
At ECSL’s fall workshop participants entered as administrators, educators, parents, or community partners. Yet together we were all learners. ECSL representatives shared ways to reframe our service learning practices. We thought about the echoes of students’ service experiences. How do they impact ourselves, our school, our community and our world? We reviewed The Five Stages of Service Learning Standards and Benchmarks. We framed the standards as a series of actions alive in our classrooms. What do the five stages look like? We shared ideas at round table discussions addressing our challenges and goals as service learning practitioners. We found someone new in this network of colleagues to support our endeavors. We learned.
As a virtual learner, you can revisit the fall meeting content through the videos and resources posted on ECSL’s website. Continue your learning at our winter workshop where we will gather with community organizations to grow reciprocal relationships that benefit both educators and organizations; that lead to meaningful and impactful service. Thank you for being a part of the ECSL learning community!
ECSL Winter Workshop
Monday, Feb 9th, 2015
New Roads School
3131 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404
*Organization workshop (special in-service for community organizations) begins at 10:15am. Joint educator-organization workshop continues from 11:30am – 1:45pm.
ECSL members gathered this April at our annual spring meeting held at Turning Point School. This year’s theme was “Engagement in Action,” an Expo that allowed attendees to learn about some of the service learning programs brought to life at our member schools. Expo presentations included: Los Angeles Human Trafficking, Community Youth Partnership: Connecting our Students with the Community, Protecting the Lungs of our Planet, Garden Collaboration, and an Intergenerational Writers Workshop.
Along with hearing about these exciting programs, participants were given a chance to share about and reflect on the service at their schools in the 2013-2014 year. The above word cloud is an exciting visual representation of some of the work at ECSL member schools!
This compilation speaks to the power of service learning. It highlights the dedication of our members. It may spark an interest for your 2014-15 service learning curriculum. We invite you to take part in the connections, network, support, reflection and inspiration that ECSL provides service learning practitioners each school year. We look forward to seeing you at our fall meeting!
Planning is bringing the future into the present
so that you can do something about it now.
While this quote may have been addressing personal time management, it could also be applied to Cathryn Berger Kaye’s workshop: Engage in Effective Planning for Service Learning. ECSL was honored to host Cathy as she engaged in her new professional development material, which helps educators plan for dynamic learning through service. Her guidance focused on several key areas that help ensure successful learning outcomes: Developing essential questions, making curricular connections, enriching learning, and assessing outcomes.
Through both case study examples and usable planning tools and activities, Cathy helped participants ignite systematic plans and get their service learning ideas in motion. Always an advocate for youth voice and authentic programs that addresses real needs, she offered a multitude of different entry points to stimulate service learning opportunities. Cathy posed a host of places that a service learning journey might start. Perhaps there is a need identified by a student? A community request? A thematic unit or skill set already taught in class that compliments a community need?
The workshop allowed teachers, administrators and parents guided opportunities to bring their ideas of the future into to the present. After leaving the meeting with planning tools and a network of colleagues to share ideas and feedback, participants have the opportunity to do something about their ideas now!
Learn more about Cathy’s work at www.cbkassociates.com.
We’d love to hear how the winter meeting helped shape your classroom’s service process. Join ECSL at our spring meeting- an expo highlighting engaged service learning programs developed during the 2013-14 school year. Find out details in our “Upcoming Events” section of our website and RSVP via email to ECSLabc@gmail.com.
Check out all the great service learning projects presented at the ECSL Show & Grow at Carl Thorp School on April 24, 2013! Click on the project summaries to find out how these teachers used the Five Stages of Service Learning to engage students in service projects at their schools!
Paige Leven, Roybal Learning Center HS (view project summary)
Creating Intergenerational Connections through Service Learning
Lauren McCabe, Westridge School for Girls (view project summary)
Trash… All the Way to the Ocean
Marissa Nadjarian, The John Thomas Dye School (view project summary)
Water Quality and Conservation PSAs
Robin Gose, Turning Point School (view project summary)
Family Portraits at Westside Children’s Center
Jennie Willens, Windward School (view project summary)