04 March 2008

The perfect service learning opportunity

I think the perfect fit for service learning is working with K-12 students and teachers. It’s a total win-win for everyone. From what I have seen do far, students win by participating in engaging activities where they practice what they have learned and also learn new ideas by collaborating with peers and experts. It’s not always easy in service learning, there'll be bumps in the road, but the work being done is applying learning rather than doing book learning – sitting in a class and talking about it. Seriously, think back when you got your driver’s license. What was more engaging and required more of your attention … sitting in class talking about the rules and behaviors of driving or actually sitting behind the wheel and driving down the street. See what I mean.

In my mind I see a K-12 class partnering with a SLO to complete a campus/community project. The SLO would supply the materials, since schools are short funded, and the students supply the labor. The teacher assembles the lesson plan, based on Standards that apply to the content studied in class and the work being accomplished by the students. The scope of work determines variables like work schedules, transportation, insurance, feeding the students, and so forth. This scenario seems to be a perfect press and district office opportunity to promote what is “’right” about education today. Do you agree?

An important question, how will success measured? For the K-12 class there is 1) the assessment they will take in class, 2) the results of the project, and 3) the life skills they develop. But, I'm not clear how a service learning organization (SLO) measures their success. When I worked at Fortune 500 companies the measure was based on a couple of factors: 1) budget, 2) customer satisfaction, 3) schedule compliance, and 4) internal controls. SLO’s are large organizations so they must have some similar measures: 1) the amount of work accomplished in a certain time, 2) amount of volunteers provided during a project or time period, 3) amount of money donated compared to funds raised? Or, is it that funding drives decision making to determine what work an SLO performs with volunteers or where they perform their work? If you understand how a SLO measures success please let me know.

In the mean time, SLO’s, if you are interested in this type of partnership let me know. I am interested in it for my classes. I also think it’s worth promoting to teachers and administrators in my newsletter.

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