Monday, May 25, 2015

Allegra Smisek Authentic Service Learning Project in Global Studies 8

1. Description

The Power of One Project is in its second year as part of the Global Studies 8 curriculum.  The idea was to encourage students to experience service learning and become more active citizens in their community.  Students then documented and reflected on their service on a Google Site.

The first year, we asked students to do 2 hours of service/term, with little more explanation or expectations.

This year, I had students focus on "levels of community" - home, neighborhood, community, and world.  Students did service at each level, in any order, one per term.

This year's template (with student edits):

Next year's template:

After much discussion with a colleague, we decided to update the project so that each service learning experience directly connected to what we were learning about in class that term.


2. Standards

3. Authenticity and Rationale
In our first year, most students did multiple "service projects" at home.  While this is a nice sentiment, especially for teenagers, I didn't feel like it was getting at the root of what I wanted students to experience, especially as part of "Global Studies".  Although things improved this year, I still felt like we were missing some valuable connections.

I think next year's project will have a strong authenticity.  Certainly, the project is authentic in that it is addressing real world problems, and students have a direct hand in making a difference.  However, I think the adjustments to the project will also make the curriculum students study IN class all the more relevant.  Studying human rights becomes much more relevant when you can put a face to someone in need.

A further rationale for this project is how well it aligns with expectations for IB.  I think this project will support and enhance the IB program in our school because it addresses service and global citizenship.

4. Reflection

Last Year: We found that many students struggled to complete the project, and few seemed very inspired.  I also realized that the project was inequitable - not all students had access to service opportunities.  I ended up encouraging most students to just "do something extra to help at home". 

This Year: The levels of community gave students more of a focus for the Power of One Project, and I provided more detailed expectations for their websites.  Students were also expected to write six one-paragraph responses connected to IB Learner Profiles.  To be more equitable, I arranged for an after school activity connected to "community"  with The Sandwich Project, and all 8th grade students went on a field trip to Feed My Starving Children.  This meant that students were only expected to do service at home and in their immediate neighborhood on their own.
NJH students making sandwiches for The Sandwich Project.

NJH students packaging food at Feed My Starving Children.
I really liked the adjustments made to the project this year, and more students participated and completed their project.  However, I still felt like the project was a little disconnected from the curriculum.  For example, students may have understood that they were addressing UDHR #25 - the right to food and shelter, but I didn't ask them to identify and reflect on that as part of their project.

Next year: The updates we made to the template will require students to do service directly connected to what they are studying that term.  Human rights, Guns, Germs, and Steel (inequality), Globalization, and Population/Earth Stewardship.  8th grade teachers will provide a service learning opportunity for each term, and some will take place during class.  I think this will really help students and parents see the connection between the project and our curriculum AND make the curriculum more relevant.  My hope is that students will also develop technology skills because students will be required to create a Public Service Announcement video connected to their service learning that will be on their website, and students will be encouraged to use social media to get others involved in their cause.

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