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.