Friday, December 31, 2010

Foreman Students Teach Literacy Skills in the Community

At Foreman High School on Chicago's northwest side, freshmen special education students in a Reader's Workshop are finding an unexpected niche in their community. After practicing sight words throughout the semester, students partnered with clients from North Center School for Handicapped to apply their skills, support literacy development among North Center clients, and have some fun.

North Center is a staple in the Belmont Cragin community. It enables children and adults who are multiply disabled to maximize their physical, intellectual, and social skill levels, and has been doing so for over 40 years. The center is conveniently located across the street from Foreman.

To kick off the project, special education classes visited the center with an ice-breaker planned by Foreman students and a sight word game led by North Center clients. Foreman students were proud to know the sight words they had practiced and learned patience as the North Center clients worked to maintain their knowledge of the sight words. North Center clients excitedly jumped into both activities, and though Foreman students were uncertain at first, they warmed up and were thrilled for the next visit.

Later in the week Foreman students attended a session at the Belmont Cragin Library where the children's librarian demonstrated how to read to an audience. She suggested to students they practice over and over to ensure they know where to be loud, where to be soft, and how to bring excitement to the text. Mostly, she encouraged students to choose a book they like. The librarian helpfully gathered books she thought engaging to our students, and they devoured the selection and relished the childhood books they remembered.

After reading the books to each other for a week, students walked to North Center to share their stories. North Center clients were quickly engaged. They loved the colors, story, and most of all the students reading to them.

Foreman students read, played games and chatted with clients for four weekly sessions. This project built a relationship with North Center clients and staff, and strengthened one with the library. It created connections for students they may not have made before - about reading, about students with disabilities, and about their community. Thanks to our friends at North Center and for their patience with our students and for welcoming us into the lives of their clients. We hope to continue the project into next semester.

Hope4Change Engages Orr Students in Community Activism

Orr Academy High School Art teacher and Service-Learning Coach Jeanne Walker understands that her westside students are the knowledge experts of their own situations and thus, potentially, the solutions. She believes that if students are given a chance to deliberate about community issues and potential solutions in their classrooms, they will tell you what they need and develop courses of action.

In Walker's Hope4Change service-learning project, students first encounter Willie Perdomo's poem, Where I'm From, a piece illustrating the struggles of the poet's community. Students are asked to write their own Where I'm From poem to investigate their own block and neighborhood and then paint the poem on a silhouette of themselves. With guidance from Mikva's Issues to Action curriculum, Walker then leads her students through a brainstorming session to identify the biggest needs of the community which have emerged from their writing.

With the needs identified, students formed committees to address job training, communication among peers, and family involvement. Committees meet during weekly advisory sessions to work on their solutions. With support from Youth Guidance and Chicago Jobs for Youth, the Job Training Committee investigates ways to include more vocational training at Orr. Alternatives, Inc. is training the Communication Committee to become Peer Mediators to run sessions during advisory periods and lunch hours. The Family Involvement Committee decided the most appealing way to bring families together is through monthly family events. With support from organizations within the school and teachers, they will be running seasonal and educational activities one Saturday a month. The Spartans' Hope 4 Change has become real change in their community.

Evergreen Middle School and CERAP Gain National Attention

CPS Science Teacher Ronald Hall of Evergreen Middle School has done an amazing job of engaging his middle school science students in active learning and action rooted in science instruction. Hall teaches students about climate change then works with them to develop an action plan to reduce the school's carbon footprint. The Carbon Emissions Action Reduction Project (CERAP) has engaged dozens of middle school science students and the success of their work with the project led to an invitation for Mr. Hall to upload the service-learning project he guides in his science classes to a national website. You can view the entire project description at

The website at is a national effort to document best practices in service-learnng. Mr. Hall and Evergreen Middle School are part of a District-wide consortium aiming to develop high quality service-learning projects in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in the middle grades. The project is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service and supported by the National Youth Leadership Council.

At Evergreen, middle school science students are learning about climate change, conducting a building-wide audit of their school's carbon footprint, and then developing action steps toward reducing their school's footprint. Mr. Hall's students have been quite rigorous in holding their peers and adults to higher eco-standards. The students have extended their work outside to create native plant and vegetable gardens on school property. Evergreen students are learning extraordinary civic engagement skills as they fight to preserve the environment for future generations.

Memory Bridge Connects CPS Students with Seniors

Students from five CPS high schools are currently participating in Memory Bridge, a service-learning project that connects high school students with senior citizens who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Students at Corliss, Brooks, Kelvyn Park, Walter Payton, Roosevelt, and Taft meet on a weekly basis to learn about Alzheimer's Disease, engage in pretty deep personal reflection about their own life journeys, learn how to connect with seniors with Alzheimer's and then gather to participate in three trips to a local senior care facility. While the first visit(s) prove to be a bit awkward, by the end of the experience, both students and seniors have created a human bond that is powerful.

The mission of Memory Bridge is to promote communication with, and memory preservation for, individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Guiding teachers at each school teach students communication and intergenerational relationship-building skills that even adults may lack. Along the way, students have the incredible opportunity to to enhance the lives of the facility residents, and students typically find that their own lives are enriched and enhanced.

Clemente Students Give Back During the Holidays

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 marked the eighth year Clemente students have partnered with Congressman Danny Davis to serve food at his Community Dinner. Fifteen students and staff served a hot turkey meal to over 100 senior citizens and community members. The event usually feed over 500 residents, but an unexpected power outage forced the Congressman to move the meal to a local church. Several students found the event to be awesome as they had a chance to give back to their community and interact with local political officials. Way to represent, Clemente!

Friday, December 17, 2010

King Day/National Day of Service to Engage Hundreds of CPS Students

On January 15 and 17, 2011, more than 1,000 CPS high school and middle school students will respond to the call of President Barack Obama to serve their communities in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On King's actual birthday, January 15, 500-600 high school students will gather at Union Station for the Celebration of Service sponsored by Chicago Cares. From Union Station, students will travel to service sites throughout the city to work with children, seniors, individuals with disabilities in addition to restoring the environment, advocating for peace, and engaging in other community building activities.

On January 17, the 2nd Annual National Day of Service, middle school students will gather at Medill Teacher Training Center for a day reflection through the arts. More than 150 students will explore the life and meaning of King through art, music, drama, and spoken word and create their own works of art to express the meaning of King and his relevance for us today. Meanwhile, more than 500 high school students will serve in various capacities throughout the city to encourage peace, participation, and strengthen their communities. Finally, our partner Mikva Challenge will host a mayoral forum for 250 high school students where they will learn about the candidates and prepare themselves for non-partisan action in the very important mayoral election on February 22. Remember January 17, in the spirit of King, is a Day On, Not a Day Off!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicago Academy Students Explore and Promote Diversity

Students in Chicago Academy High School’s integrated reading and visual arts class are working together this year to discover the differences and similarities within and among Chicago neighborhoods. During a recent field study trip, art teacher Mr. McKoski and reading teacher Ms. Turk took 30 students on a community investigation of the Argyle/Edgewater neighborhood between Bryn Mawr and Argyle Avenue.

As part of the reading and visual art curriculum, students learn to read both words and visual images in trying to make meaning of the world around them. In order to understand and appreciate the complexity of the Uptown/Edgewater neighborhood, students visited two public murals on Bryn Mawr and Foster Avenue, and investigated Argyle Street by visiting retail stores and eating lunch in a local restaurant. Throughout the day, students collected a variety of “evidence” that would later be used to create a school installation that described the neighborhood. The “evidence” collected included notes, photographs, journal reflections, objects found along the walk, receipts from purchases, menus from restaurants, and food smears from the food they ate! The collection of evidence was based on the work and book Evidence: The Art of Candy Jernigan by Candy Jernigan which students had been studying in class.

Using the same writing and collection techniques completed on the class trip, students returned to their own neighborhood and continued to collect “evidence” that would be used to represent their part of the city. The “evidence” from both trips was used to create two separate collages. Students created a collage for their class trip and a separate collage for their individual trip into their own community. The collages were displayed within the school before report card pickup day, creating a display of words and images that students, teachers, and visitors could read to gain a better understanding of the diversity of Chicago neighborhoods.

Kelvyn Park Students Attend National Youth Leadership Training

The National Youth Leadership Training event in Minnesota, sponsored by the National Youth Leadership Council, was a meaningful experience for my students, as well as for me as an educator. I sent off two of my students not knowing what to expect or how they would feel about the training. When I came to the site with all of the other mentors on the fifth day the campers had been there, I was amazed to see their glowing faces as they ran up to me to tell me all about their week. They had spent five days camping in the wilderness, completing various simulations, participating in team-building and service-learning projects — all of which tested their will power, their influence on others, and their beliefs. The students took part in activities and discussions that challenged their ideas of justice within the education system and what rights they are entitled to as students and, more importantly, as human beings.

Over the next two days, I worked with my two students on a service-learning project that we could take back to our school using the leadership skills and knowledge about the achievement gap that they gained while at NYLT. I felt so proud to see my students excited and engaged in creating a project that would benefit other students, our school, and our community.

Niki Moylan, Teacher at Kelvyn Park High School

The National Youth Leadership Training this summer was amazing. I had so much fun getting to know new people from all around. I loved the whole point of the camp. They taught us so much and changed us in so many ways. The first 24 hours were my favorite because we got to know each other and do all types of challenging activities. Most of us got to do things that we have never done before — like camping, building a fire, and canoeing. That was exciting. We arrived to the camp area where all the cabins were and had time to learn more about one another.

Morning exercise was my second favorite part of the program. We got to run and we discovered that many of us were into cross country and track. We ran every morning. I got to relate to other participants and found out that we had so many things in common. It brought us closer. We had no trust for each other at the beginning, but towards the end we all got along and trusted each other like a big family. This camp has taught me so much that will follow me throughout the rest of my life.

Jorge Zamora, Student at Kelvyn Park High School

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Al Raby Teachers Integrate Service Across the Curriculum

Al Raby School for Community and Environment is a small school of approximately 600 on the Westside of Chicago. At Raby we have incorporated the service-learning requirement into our coursework. Each teacher has elected to include a five week service-learning project into their curriculum maps. Freshman students explore hunger from a multi-disciplinary perspective and then complete the experience with a trip to one of eight service sites that provide food and other services to Chicago’s hungry and most in-need.

Other projects include: Biology students removing invasive species from the forest preserves and Spanish language students creating a Hispanic Cultural performance art piece. Additional service-learning opportunities revolve around whole school efforts to make Raby a “green school”, such as students raising funds through Climate Cycle to install solar panels on the roof of the school which saves thousands of dollars in energy and reduces carbon output.

One of our most complex service-learning project takes place within out Advanced Placement Psychology class. Students explore the causes of various mental illnesses. They then interview members of their family and community to collect anecdotal records of what illnesses exist in the African American community. Students bring the material back to school and work with “Erasing the Distance” theater company to write performance pieces that will then be performed before a student and then a community audience. Students hold a reflection discussion after each performance to discuss why mental illness in the African American community needs to be brought out of the darkness – to begin the healing process and provide support for those with the illness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

World Citizen Award

Heather Pavona, English teacher and Service-Learning Coach at Kelvyn Park High School, was just awarded the World Citizen Award by Hostelling International Chicago. On Friday, December 3, 2010, Heather received the award in recognition of her work to develop students as global citizens. She has actively engaged her students in global learning through Exchange Neighborhoods, Cultural Kitchen, and Community Walls - three key programs of Hostelling Internaional Chicago. Through Exchange Neighborhoods, two CPS high school classrooms from different schools are paired together to explore and share their community's culture with one another. Through Cultural Kitchen, a high school classroom provides a presentation about a country around the world and then prepares a dinner from that country's cuisine for international travelers. Finally, Community Walls enables students to study the culture of their community, create works of art that represent the community, and then share their work with international visitors. Each Hostelling experience culminates with an overnight stay at the hostel.

The vision of Hostelling International Chicago is to create a community of caring world citizens who exhibit respect, excitement and understanding of cultural diversity whether they are looking across the block or across the globe. The hostel's mission is to bring peace building curriculum into the classroom through partnerships with and training of teachers.

Heather has been a great supporter and practitioner of peace building and service-learning opportunities as a teacher and Service-Learning Coach at Kelvyn Park High School. We believe these experiences generate and reinforce important life learning, connect students to global issues, develop effective citizenship skills, and build critical social/emotional skills. Congratulations to Heather and her students at Kelvyn Park for doing their part to make this world a better place.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CPS Student Leaders To Explore Diversity at Leadership Conference

The Harris Fellows Student Leadership Initiative will welcome 300 CPS student leaders to its 6th Annual Winter Leadership Conference hosted by DePaul University, on Saturday, December 4, 2010. The theme of this year's conference, Welcome to DiverCity, Where We Strengthen Our CommUnity, seeks to develop leadership skills in our students for a ever more diverse city and nation. In order to be an effective leader in this millennium, leaders will need to be well-equipped to move in a wide diversity of settings.

Student leaders from throughout Chicago Public Schools will host workshops designed to answer the following questions within the theme of diversity: Who Am I? Who are You? What Can WE Accomplish Together? Current Harris Fellows student leaders, alumni and community partners will host a total of 24 workshops. The outcome of the conference will be a Diversity Manifesto which will ask Chicago Public Schools to commit to expanding opportunities with all as we embrace our diversity.

At the conference, Harris Fellows will recognize its latest round of grant recipients. These ten emerging student leadership groups in CPS high schools are addressing important school and community issues as they seek to strengthen our schools and communities. Each student leadership organization will create a 3-5 minute video for debut at the Youth Civic Action Video Festival in May 2011. For more information about this year's conference, contact

CPS Students to help Celebrate Jane Addams' 150th

From Monday, December 6 - Friday, December 10, 2010, CPS high school students will be learning about the progressive social worker, peace activist, and civic leader Jane Addams in their classrooms then serving Chicago's communities throughout the city. Students will have the opportunity to work with children in historic settlement houses, gather stories from immigrants and refugees, participate in a peace vigil, and gather winter gear for newly arriving refugee families from the Middle East.

Jane Addams, one of the most important leaders from the progressive era, and a Chicagoan, developed the settlement house movement in the United States with a first site at 800 South Halsted in the 1890's. CPS teachers gathered at the historic settlement house, now a museum, for a workshop on November 18 to learn about service opportunities and new curriculum that prepares students for service projects.

As the city prepares to celebrate the 150th birthday of Jane Addams, CPS students will be connecting progressive era history with contemporary issues facing Chicago's citizens and discovering how they can be an important part of building the common good in our the spirit of Chicago's own Jane Addams.

CPS Teacher To Travel to the Amazon

November 30, 2010

Congratulations to Josh Park, a teacher at Curie Metropolitan High School. He was selected from a pool of fantastic teachers in Chicago to spend ten days in the Amazon with 10 Curie students during the summer of 2011. Few places on earth can rival the rich social and biological diversity of the Amazon. Parker and the students will explore villages, forests, rivers, and lakes, nature centers, and visit with indigenous peoples including shamans. Students will also participate in service experiences while they are there. The service-learning experience is sponsored by Global Explorers and the Pearson Foundation.

Another opportunity is coming up soon through Global Explorers. One CPS teacher will be selected to join American Youth Leaderhip Program for a three-week travel experience to Cambodia with five CPS students during the summer of 2011. The application deadline is Thursday, December 16, 2010. Teachers interested in applying can go to www.globalexplorers/programs/destinations/cambodia.