Sunday, June 26, 2011

Changing the World...One Class at a Time

If you ever find yourself traveling down I-24 through Tennessee, be sure to stop in Whitwell before you get to Chattanooga.  You'll want to visit Whitwell Middle School to witness the product of their unlikely and amazing Paper Clips Project.  Educators will be interested in the One Clip Summer Institute.  Please see their website here.

"The Paper Clips Project has been an affirmation of my belief that education is absolutely essential to change." - Linda Hooper, principal, Whitwell Middle School

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

A quick trip to the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service allowed me an opportunity to help rebuild and 'spruce up' Evans Park in the Uptown New Orleans.  Conference attendees spread out across New Orleans to work at four different playgrounds that had been devastated during Katrina.

Luminaries including R&B legend Percy Sledge, the Daily Show's British Correspondent John Oliver, and New Orleans chef John Besh participated and celebrated volunteers from across the country during the closing ceremony.

One of my favorite sessions was called Community Cinema and Service Learning Through Film:  A Village Called Versailles.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnamese American residents in Versailles impressively rise to the challenges by returning and rebuilding before any other flooded neighborhood in New Orleans, only to have their homes threatened by a new government-imposed toxic landfill just two miles away.  The film recounts the empowering story of how this group of people turns a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change.  We were only given a small taste of the film by its director, S. Leo Chiang, but I intend to watch the rest and highly recommend it for use as a jumping off point on any service learning project involving the environment, youth engagement, cross-generation collaboration, or civic engagement.

As always, I returned with new ideas and inspiration.  And a few extra pounds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Service

This blog has gotten a little dusty, huh?  We've just been busy closing out another school year and preparing for the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service in New Orleans.  There will be some fun and familiar faces presenting and we will enjoy participating in a service project to help rebuild a local playground. 

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New Friends - Conference Reflection

Debora and I spent a lovely time at the National Service Learning Conference in Atlanta last week.  We enjoyed getting to know an incredibly friendly, talented, and amazing teacher from our district, Debbie, and the incredibly friendly, talented, and amazing Greg Forbes Siegman (both pictured above).  Check out his website!  We met many other wonderful people, but failed to get pictures.  Lesson learned from Greg:  have camera ready at all times.

  [terrible photo, but awesome flash mob]
  • State Farm's Project Ignition brought together teens from all over the country who are finding creative ways to address the issue of teen driver safety in their communities  We witnessed a very cool FLASH MOB that involved students silently standing throughout the crowd holding signs with alarming driving statistics.  Effective (and easily replicated)!
  • There are tons of organizations willing to help students, teachers, and community groups join forces to meet the needs of the world while empowering youth.  Just a few exhibitors we met include:  SweatMonkey, National Runaway Switchboard, Project Learning Tree, and the OCHO Project.
  • There are schools of all shapes and sizes implementing service learning on all levels --- from rookies to old pros.  While the use of SL may be on a decline, it is clearly evident that those who believe in its value are doing amazing things with their students.
  • Awards ceremony at the Georgia Aquarium - beautiful venue!
  • Conferences like this can too often become session after session of preaching to the choir.  Current teachers who implement (and have a passion for) service learning should find an avenue for sharing their projects and passions with teachers who don't use SL.
  • Too many presenters rely on PowerPoint and utilize it for nothing more creative than (or less painful than) sitting at an uncle's house watching a 'slide show' of recent vacation pictures.  Agony.  See Death by PowerPoint on slideshare.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Service or Service Learning?

    "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success." ~Henry Ford

    Our students were recently asked to stuff, address, and stamp envelopes for the local Rotary Club's annual fundraiser.  We gladly did it as the Rotary Club does so much for our school.  While it wasn't rocket science, we were impressed with the way they organized themselves and created a smooth assembly line to accomplish the task.

    While this diverse group of students was working we asked, "Is this service or service learning?"  They immediately defined it as 'service learning' because they were learning teamwork and how to get along with each other.  Frankly, this answer surprised us.  As the work continued, they began wondering how much they could get to do this type of work in the real world and discussing how long they could stand to do this type of work.  One student decided that this little project was enough to make him want to go to college----so he could be the one telling someone else to stuff, address, and lick all these envelopes.

    While there were no specific curriculum standards being addressed, students were learning valuable life lessons.  No, this doesn't qualify as properly-defined service learning; nevertheless, taking a little time to help the community, figuring out how to get things done efficiently, and discovering a career path you may or may not be interested in qualify as time well spent.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Tennessee Conference on Volunteerism and Service

    Great conference.  Great contacts.  Not-so-great statistic:  Tennessee ranks 31st* in the list of states whose citizens volunteer for service organizations and projects.  Hello, Volunteer State.  We can do better.

    *I would suggest that the amazing hours of volunteer work put in during last year's flood have not been counted.  In fact, Nashville's Mayor Karl Dean's keynote address was praising the amazing volunteer spirit he saw in throughout the city and state during the "100 Year Flood" of 2010.  Even the inmates volunteered to help (see article in USA Today).

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Trick 'Em Into Getting Involved (aka Cat Bowling)

    Like a cat focused on a laser, there are students who are focused on ONE thing:  music, comics, cars, getting into the best school, making the football team, etc.  Their passion is so strong that it may be challenging to get them to want to try something new in order to participate in your group's service-learning project.

    It's up to you, the savvy facilitator, to find a way for these students to recognize their place and value in the project.  Get the student obsessed with music to write a song promoting your water conservation project.  A sports fanatic could create a game to help young elementary students develop reading skills.  A student with an after-school job could share his expertise in customer service and dealing with the public to help build community within your group.

    Find a part for each student to play.  Before they know it, they'll be 'bowling' right along with the group.