Friday, December 9, 2011

Foreman Students Serve at Historic Northwestern Settlement House

The Northwestern Settlement House, in existence since 1891, hosted Foreman High school students on Friday, December 9, 2011. Students participated in activities with the "Golden Agers", a group of senior citizens from the community who come to the settlement house regularly for activities and services.

In the tradition of Jane Addams and the settlement house movement, the Northwestern Settlement House seeks to be a community center that provides opportunities and services for neighbors of all ages.

Foreman students led a rousing game of bingo then socialized with the seniors, many of whom access the settlement house as one of their few social opportunities of the week. The Golden Agers were thrilled to see the Foreman students and have them join in the activities.

Following the activities, Foreman students were able to tour the facility and learn about the important, and uniquely Chicago, history of the settlement house. For the past 120 years neighbors have been accessing the unique blend of opportunities. For our Foreman students it was a great opportunity to literally step into history and learn more about how individuals and organizations are civically engaged in the city.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Harris Fellows Host 7th Annual Leadership Conference

More than 350 CPS high school students came to DePaul University on Saturday, December 3, for the 7th Annual Harris Fellows Leadership Conference. The conference theme - Education: Shape Your Future; Shape Our Future - encouraged students to take control of their own education and use it to collaborate with others to build a better world.

Students found that the messages about college education are too frequently about winning the ability to make more money. Harris Fellows student leaders wanted to explore in more detail how post secondary education could lead to a different kind of fulfillment that creates a more just world and a deeper sense of personal fulfillment.

Throughout the conference, students participated in student-facilitated workshops that enabled them to identify and build on their own skills, passions, and fires, and then work together to create a different kind of a future based on the issues they cared most about.

Students were excited to attend the conference and were enthused about the workshops, opportunities to meet other student leaders, and the chance to have some fun during the lunch session which featured great music and dancing. One student reported she learned that "social networks are important and you have to feel comfortable in your own skin." Another said: "I built my confidence." Another said: "This [conference} should keep going on cause it's a good thing to inspire people."

The Harris Fellows Student Leadership Conference is unique in that it is conceived, planned, and implemented by student leaders. The adults take the back seat for the day. It was amazing to see the students plan out and facilitate their workshops and witness how favorably other students responded.

At the conference, four student leadership groups were recognized as members of the Harris Fellows Network: Phoenix Brotherhood, Foreman Peer Jury, Phoenix Sisterhood, and John Hope HS Brotherhood. Each of these organizations enables student leaders to make a real difference in the lives of fellow students at their schools.

Vaughn Students Serve in Tradition of Jane Addams

20 wonderful Vaughn High School students served in the tradition of Jane Addams today by preparing lunch and socializing with seniors citizens at The Kenmore Apartments as part of the CPS Jane Addams Week of Service.

During the week of December 5, students from across Chicago Public Schools learn about the important work of Jane Addams, a turn-of-the century reformer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, then serve at various settlement house and community locations throughout the city. Addams built settlement houses as a strategy to develop community among and support the aspirations of newly arriving immigrants. But Addams also advocated for justice in those communities.

CPS teachers attended a professional development workshop at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum in November in order to prepare for the week of service which culminates on Saturday, December 10, with Addams' birthday celebration. Teachers help students learn about the progressive movement at the turn of the century and the work of Jane Addams and other reformers then accompany their students as they serve in communities across Chicago - just as Jane Addams herself did. On Jane Addams' birthday students from Curie, Hancock, Foreman, and Dyett will be working with immigrants, serving and getting to know seniors, and learning community organizing skills.

Today, Vaughn students displayed great teamwork, positive energy, and a wonderful spirit of community as they prepared lunch for 30 senior citizens then settled into play games with a very diverse group of Uptown senior citizens.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Recyclers Set to Smash Target Goals

20 CPS teachers gathered at the Center for Green Technology on Thursday, October 6 to get ready for the new recycling season at CPS. Teachers in attendance learned about great new curriculum from Facing the Future called "Buy, Use, Toss." Ten lessons and a bounty of extra online and video resources will enable students to dive deep and explore the social and environmental problems when we consume without thinking about the aftermath (particulary to the environment) of our choices.

Each teacher will lead a team of students that will develop and implement a recycling strategy at their school. Teams will be able to track their progress at and seeh how they are fairing on their recycling goals. We believe that each team will help its school smash the 100% goal of targeted recycling volume.

As recycling teams meet to strategize and implement their plans, they will also be able to participate in field trips to several locations to learn more about environmental issues and recycling processes. These experiences will help students build 21st century skills as they will be forced to think critically and creatively, collaborate with their peers, and solve problems that inevitably arise as the school works to get adults and students on board with recycling.

CPS is lucky to have such great teachers and students who are dedicated to the environment and engaging young people in such important work. Kudos in particular to Whitney Young High School which was represented by two student leaders who are anxious to implement plans at their school.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

100 students and teachers from the southeast side of Chicago celebrated National Public Lands Day on September 24, by helping to restore wetland ecosystems at the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Students from Washington, Morgan Park, Harlan, Bowen, and Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences boarded buses early in the morning in order to learn more about intact ecosystems at the Indiana Dunes, the importance of biodiversity, and then pitched in by planting native plant species in a wetland bog, cutting back invasive species, and learning the craft of environmental interpretation.

Following a morning of hard work, students were rewarded for their labors with a picnic lunch and trip to Mt. Baldy, a immense sand dune with views of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. The dunes provided a good respite in nature for our high school students and the breath-taking views of Lake Michigan and its lake shore were memorable.

These students will now return to the Lake Calumet region of Chicago to restore and maintain their own more natural areas through the Calumet Is My BackYard program. Each high school group will continue to learn about environmental science in the classroom then put their knowledge to work restoring prairie and wetland areas throughout the southeast side of Chicago.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Communities Welcome Teachers for Immersion Institute

Teachers from schools in Logan Square, Kenwood/Oakland, and North Lawndale spent a full week during July participating in a Community Immersion Institute sponsored by the Service-Learning Initiative and the Office of Social Sciences.

The Institute is designed ngage teachers in the organizations, issues, and history of their communities and seek ways to connect these perspectives and opportunities with their own classroom curriculum.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation played active roles in facilitating the Institute throughout the week.

Teachers began the week by participating in community building activities and learning about the history of their neighborhoods. The next two days were spent in communities learning about current issues, organizations, and strategies. In Logan Square, teachers were able to have lunch in the homes of families.

Following a day of reflection and learning about three community-based pedagogies - service-learning, place-based learning and social justice education - teachers spent the final day of the Institute developing projects for their own classrooms. Many of the projects will enable students to learn more about the history and development of their communities and become active citizens in their own communities.

On August 25, teacher participants will gather again to share their projects and plan next steps in the process of connecting classroom to communities. For a full story of the Community Immersion Institute go to:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer of Service and Leadership Kicks Off in 21 Schools

50 teachers and college students gathered on June 4, 2011, for a professional development seminar to prepare them to launch the 4th Summer of Service and Leadership - a four-week leadership and service-learning experience for rising ninth graders.

Summer of Service and Leadership (SOSL) engages students in 21 high schools around the city in team building and leadership development experiences that prepare them to serve their communities. Students are currently examining the issues of aging, poverty and environment and then serving at locations throughout the city by working side-by-side with senior citizens, assisting and food pantries and restoring natural habitats.

In addition to the great service work students do through the program, SOSL is also a great transition program for 8th graders as they embark upon their high school careers. With the help of teachers, college mentors, and community partners, students are able to build new relationships with teachers, fellow students, and leaders in the community. They also have opportunities to explore college with the support of the college mentors.

The following high schools are participating in SOSL this summer: Amundsen, Chicago Academy, Clemente, Gage Park, Harlan, Kelvyn Park, Kennedy, King College Prep, Kinzie, Richards, Roosevelt, School of Social Justice, Solario, Steinmetz, Taft, Upflit, Von Steuben, Washington, and Whitney Young.

SOSL will culminate on Friday, July 22, 2011, at the UIC Forum. 500 students will come together to share their fantastic summer experiences. Look for a rainbow sea of colors as students report on out on their great work this summer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Curie Students Explore the Amazon as Global Citizens

Ten Curie High School students and their teachers flew from Chicago to Iquitos, Peru to begin their Amazonian rain forest adventure with Global Explorers. Teachers Josh Parker and Erin Faulkner led the students through a week-long exploration of Amazonian nature and culture from June 22 - July 1.

Students encountered the legendary pink river dolphins, the only fresh water dolphins the world, fished successfully for piranha, encountered boa constrictors, tarantulas and macaws, toucans, and parakeets, heard the magical calls of the oropendula birds and spotted a tailless whip scorpion on the rain forest floor at night time.

But students also got to meet villagers from Yagua and Santa Isabel where they learned about the medicinal properties of trees and plants from a shaman, participated in tribal ceremonies and were able to purchase native jewelrly made from plants and fish bones.

Undoubtedly for most students, the highlight of the trip was a day of service in the tiny river community of Santa Isabel. Students delivered bi-lingual children's books to start a library in the school, built book shelves, painted the school, and create a playground area for the community's youngsters. Students were in awe of how the villagers work together without the benefit of electricity and machines to build, create, and cook what they need to live.

In the closing days of the trip, students were able to ascend 200 feet into the forest canopy to enjoy the Amazon from on high. Students navigated the canopy walk among 18 different trees. It was an amazing way to complete the exploration of the Amazon. It was a life altering experience for the students. All returned more committed to continue to engage in meaningful service-learning work in their own communities. And, they all vowed to return one day to the Amazon.

Thanks are due to Pearson Foundation, Global Explorers, and AFAR Magazine for this absolutely incredible opportunity for CPS students!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CPS Recognizes SL Coaches and Top Practitioners

CPS Service-Learning Coaches gathered for the Annual Coach Recognition and Awards Ceremony on May 24, 2011, at the National Museum of Mexican Art along with teachers, principals, students and community partners.

In what has become an annual affair to acknowledge the excellent work of our Service-Learning Coaches and award top performers in service-learning, the event culminated a year of extraordinary work in service-learning. In addition to hundreds of coach and teacher-initiated service-learning projects, CPS also featured the Jane Addams Week of Service, Martin Luther King Celebration of Service, Cesar E. Chavez Month of Service, Chicago Youth Service Day, Adopt-an-Ecosystem, Elections 2011, and Carbon Emissions Reduction Action Project. This sampling of projects is just a taste of the experiences available to CPS students this year.

The evening's theme - We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand tiny threads - comes from the pen of Herman Melville. His thoughts encourage each of us to recognize and explore the connections that bind us together in a common humanity. Service-learning is an excellent teaching and learning strategy to help students see and act upon these connections.

Winners of this year's service-learning awards were:

Community Partner - Hostelling International Chicago
SL Coach - Jeanne Walker, Orr High School, and Saswati Koya, Chicago Academy
Principal - James Schwartz, Al Raby High School
Teacher - Necia Jeffries, Roosevelt High School, Patricia Holloway, Chicago Discovery Academy, Katrina Vafakos, Taft High School
Students - Nicole Bolton, Morgan Park High School, Jasmine Sarmiento, Kelvyn Park High School, Jose Solis, Kelly High School, Ericka Ballard, King College Prep, Mauricio Ruiz, Foreman High School, Princess Davis, Marine Military Academy

Congratulations to the 2011 Service-Learning Award winners.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kelly Students Support Progressive Immigration Legislation

As part of Chicago Youth Service Day on Saturday, April 30, 2011, more than 100 Kelly High School students traveled to St. Nicholas Church on Chicago's southwest side to join immigrants, community leaders, and elected officials to raise their voice for progressive immigration legislation.

Kelly students have long been interested in the DREAM Act and have fought for passage of the act which would enable thousands of children of immigrants to access loans and scholarships to attend colleges and universities. Currently, children of undocumented immigrants are not able to attend college because of funding being denied.

A second piece of proposed legislation, the Smart Enforcement Act, would enable local governments to choose whether they want to cooperate with a federal enforcement program that targets hardened criminals but also has led to the deportation of undocument immigrants arrested for misdemeanor crimes.

Immigrant advocacy groups say they hope Illinois can begin to reverse the trend of pro-enforcement state measures that have been sweeping across the country.

By participating in the rally, Kelly students learned about first amendment rights to assemble and petition the government. They also learned to raise their voice for causes the believe in.

According to Service-Learning Coordinator Raul Magdaleno, Kelly students brought energy and spirit to the gathering on Saturday. The rally was sponsored in part by the Illinois Caucus for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Thousand Youth Join Chicago Youth Service Day

A thousand CPS middle school and high school students participated in the second annual Chicago Youth Service Day on Saturday, April 30, 2011. Students worked with senior citizens, restored natural areas in parks, wetlands, and forest preserves, served in homeless shelters, built community gardens, and advocated for immigration reform and passage of the DREAM Act throughout the city.

At the Linne Woods natural site north of Chicago, Lincoln Park High School students removed invasive growth and built natural erosion control mechanisms using downed invased treee species. Students also enjoyed the burn pile where they cast the remaining invasive plants which will make room for natural plant species.

At the Ruth Shriman Senior Apartments complex in Uptown, students from Von Steuben High School served breakfast, socialized, and played games with residents seniors.

Three groups of Amundsen High School students traveled to Pilsen to help with the annual Dia de los Ninos celebration and parade, to Foster Avenue Beach to continue work on their adopt-a-beach site, and to the Just Harvest organization to assist with the food pantry, while 100 Kelly High School students participated in a rally to advocate for immigration reform at St. Nicholas Church.

Curie High School students teamed up with students from Gary Elementary to develop a mural about the enrivonment while Dyett and Fenger students partnered to assist at the Roseland Boys and Girls Club. Middle School students at Jackson Language Academy created a memorial garden to honor a teacher who recently passed away.

Countless partner organizations including BuildOn, Chicago Cares, Friends of the Parks, Alliance of Great Lakes, Public Allies and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County provided opportunities for students to be involved in service throughout the day.

All participating students traveled in the afternoon to McCormick Place for a spectacular Civic Action Rally highlighted by community partner tables, 15 activity stations including hip hop dancing, art, spoken word, and theatre, and a rally featuring the outstanding and amazing dance performance by FootWorkingz and spoken word performance by the Half Pint Poetics of Kuumba Lynx.

As emcee Steve Mayberry noted: Now don't let today be the end of your journey. Let it be the beginning. Let generations to come look back on this day and say something bold and proud and beautiful was let loose on the City of Chicago on that day, April 30, 2011, and the city was never the same again.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Vaughn Students Support The Night Ministry

This year freshmen at Vaughn Occupational High School participated in our yearly fundraising activity for the Night Ministry. The Night Ministry ( aids homeless youth and adults and provides basic supplies along with free healthcare, housing, and supportive services.

Throughout November and December the freshmen participated in activities in their courses to learn more about homelessness and the impact it has on their communities. Also in November the students sold healthy snacks in their lunch periods to raise money. Although the snacks only ranged in price from $0.25 to $0.50 they were able to raise $180.00 in just three weeks! Just before winter break all of the freshmen came together to create and stuff stockings with basic supplies for Night Ministry’s annual winter holiday party.

This service learning project had obvious benefits, such as having the students learn more about homelessness and helping those serviced by Night Ministry, but it also had other less obvious benefits. The first was introducing our freshmen to service-learning. At the beginning of the year many of our freshmen students were unsure of what volunteering or service-learning meant. While we worked on this project we also discussed the importance and benefits of volunteering. If you speak with our freshmen now, they all are excited about doing more projects and volunteering outside of school in their communities.

Through this project the students also got to learn and/or practice some important job skills such as selling items, making change, sorting items, and sewing (which they all protested they couldn’t do before our project). We will continue to support Night Ministry in the coming years and if you would like to get more information about how we run our project please contact Sara Manseau or Catalina Fernandez at Vaughn.

300 CPS Students Celebrate Cesar Chavez

On Saturday, March 26, 300 CPS high school students celebrated the work and legacy of Cesar E. Chavez, the farm worker organizer, in the Pilsen community. Students participated in a series of morning workshops in which they created various works of art including drums, poetry, street theatre, banners, and posters. They then took to the streets for a commemorative march through the streets of Pilsen. The march honored the work of Chavez and fellow workers and organizers as they sought to bring justice to field laborers. For the sixth consecutive year, students have participated in service projects throughout the month of March. The projects address those issues important to Chavez: environmental justice, immigration, worker's rights, food and nutrition, and community development. In all, 70 groups of students served throughout the city of Chicago. At the culminating event hosted by Juarez Community Academy on March 26, students had the opportunity to meet and hear from Marcos Munoz, a fellow organizer of Chavez who helped to promote the successful grape boycott. As students took to the streets for the march under glistening blue skies, community members honked their approval as student chanted for unity, justice, and solidarity. It was an excellent opportunity to practice first amendment rights granted by the U.S. Constitution.

Vaughn Freshmen are Saving the World, One CFL at a Time

Freshmen at Vaughn Occupational High School have been participating in a brand new service- learning project called Lights for Learning. Lights for Learning is a project sponsored by the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and APT. This program provides schools and organizations the opportunity to earn funds by selling Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) and other energy efficient items. 80% of the sales go back to the school. Since Vaughn is a zero waste grant school, Lights for Learning fits in perfectly with our current school culture. The freshmen have learned more about saving energy and CFL light bulbs in their classes. They also participated in a Lights for Learning assembly and got to learn more about the differences between CFL and traditional light bulbs by riding an energy bike. After learning more about saving energy, they then created informational handouts and posters advertising the sale. Our first sale was during Vaughn’s annual Fall Festival. Although the students had only been in school for a few weeks, over fifteen freshmen came to the Fall Festival to pass out their energy saving tips and to sell light bulbs. Parents, teachers, and visitors alike were impressed with their confidence in the process. From that event alone we raised $142.00. Our next event was at our third quarter parent teacher conferences. We are also creating videos about saving energy to enter in the Lights for Learning “How Do You Shine Like an Energy Star?” contest. At the end of the year the freshmen will be working together as a class to decide what type of energy saving items they would like to buy with the profits and donate to Vaughn to make our school more energy efficient. This project has taught our students more about saving energy, reinforced important work skills, and will help us as a school become more energy efficient. If you would like to know more about this program or would like to order light bulbs from Vaughn, contact Sara Manseau.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Register Now for 11th Annual Service-Learning Conference

Social Justice: Context, Critical Thinking, Civic Action. The theme for the 11th Annual CPS Service-Learning Conference will highlight the amazing work teachers and students are doing throughout the city and world to understand and respond to issues of social inequity. On Friday, April 1, 2011, more than 200 teachers and students are expected to participate in the conference at Malcolm X College. Register now at https://www.

Service-learning has grown as a pedagogical strategy in CPS during the past years. During the 2009-10 academic year, more than 900 teachers used service-learning in their classrooms. We expect even more teachers to engage their students in service-learning projects in the coming year as the District moves from hours to projects as a new graduation requirement. The conference is an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn more about authentic, teacher-tested service-learning strategies that work.

Raby and Curie Students Discover Peace Circles During Chavez Month

As more than 65 student groups participate in Cesar Chavez Month of Service activities, students from Curie and Al Raby High Schools spent full days receiving training in peace circles methodology. Hosted by the Chicago Youth Justice Institute, the peace circle training provides participants with insights in how to facilitate peace circles in their own schools

Originally a restorative justice concept, the peace circles are now widely recognized as an effective social/emotional learning strategy that helps students identify and give voice to issues they are facing at home, community, and school. Using a talking piece that travels around the circle, students begin by constructing a safe environment for discussion. They then explore topics that engage participants in reflection. The focus is not on debate and argumentation, but simply to enable young people to express their feelings in an open and honest environment where respect, integrity and caring are foundational values.

In the spirit of Cesar E. Chavez, peace circles represent a strategy of non-violence by enabling students to get to know each other and thereby break down isolation, preconceived notions, and ignorance of each other. One student said: "I have been in class all year with you and barely noticed you. Today I got to know you. I'll see you in such a different way from now on."

Following their training, the students are challenged to return to their schools and develop a strategy to implement peace circle strategies at their schools to complete their service-learning projects.

More than 300 studens will come together on March 26 at Benito Juarez Community for the annual Day of Reflection. Students will create banners, murals, street theatre skits, songs and chants, and then join together for a Chavez Commemorative March through the streets of Pilsen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CPS Students Kick Off Cesar Chavez Month of Service in Chicago

Students from Al Raby, Roosevelt, School of Leadership, and Chicago Academy kicked off the annual Cesar E. Chavez Month of Service today by participating in service projects around the city. Each of the 70 service projects organized for the month of March reflects the issues and commitments of farm worker organizer Cesar E Chavez. Chavez struggled throughout his life to organize, build solidarity, and raise the voices and concerns of oppressed farm workers during the 1960's, 70's, 80's and 90's. Chavez was concerned about worker's rights, environmental degradation and health hazards, food issues, and justice and equality.

True to his spirt, the CPS Service-Learning Initiative has developed curriculum that reflects the life and work of Chavez as preparation for 70 service projects from March 1 - 31, 2011.

On Tuesday, March 2, students from Chicago Academy and Al Raby High School spent the day being trained on the principles and practices of peace circles. Cesar Chavez was a fierce advocate of non-violent action and resistance and even fasted to implore his co-workers to stay true to the principles of non-violence. Raby and Chicago Academy students spent part of their day strategizing about how they will take the training back to their schools to promote a greater sense of peaceful interaction among peers at their schools.

Meanwhile, students from the School of Leadership traveled to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to sort and pack food for distribution among Chicago's hungry. Chavez' working life was dedicated to those who work with food. He was a leader in campaigning for the rights of and better working conditions for farm workers.

Finally, Roosevelt students traveled downtown to receive training from the United States Hispanic Leadership Council. Subsequently, students hit the streets to register new voters for upcoming elections. In the last citywide election, only 40% of the registered voters bothered to vote. When students who are not yet eligible to vote, spend their time registering new voters, we believe it can inspire greater civic participation. This was important to Cesar Chavez. Si se puede!

Hundreds more students will be involved in service during the month of March and then come together on March 26 for a culminating event at Juarez High School in Pilsen. Thanks for the teachers for engaging their students in such meaningful and powerful ways. Viva la causa!

Roosevelt World Studies and World Language Classes Integrate Service throughout Albany Park and Chicago

I'm Nitya Viswanath. My co-coach, Crystal Pfeiffer, and I are excited to share some news about servcice-learning events going on at Theodore Roosevelt High School.

Our biggest project, the second semester Freshman World Studies project, just kicked off. We've worked with the World Studies course team to identify several agencies where students can complete hours this semester. The students will then be completing creative projects where they will tie in concepts about the Enlightenment and nationalism as well as lessons learned from their service opportunities. Each teacher on the team has their own project and corresponding rubrics, and as each teacher is moving at a slightly different pace, the project will be introduced to students at varying times, but all projects will be completed during the 2nd semester. This is huge for us as the World Studies team is the largest team to try a curriculum-integrated project at our school. The World Studies faculty put in an enormous amount of time planning rubrics for this project and contacting agencies about their mission statements to ensure that the agencies were a good fit. In our neighborhood, some of the agencies involved will be Associacion Ecuador Unido, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, CeaseFire, and Albany Park Community Center.

Our Spanish 1 and 2 classes are also busy working on projects for Cesar Chavez Month of Service. Ms. Pfeiffer’s students spent three days learning about Cesar Chavez in the classroom before their trip. They were engaged in several activities to learn about the conditions of farmworkers, Chavez’s role in organizing and ways to identify and organize around issues in the community today. After watching a short video clip and writing a reflection, students imagined themselves in the shoes of a farmworker and began to understand why they needed to fight for their rights. Students also had a discussion about injustices in the community and performed humorous skits publicizing the issues the way that many farmworkers did using Teatro Campesino or Farmworker Theater.

Finally, the students went downtown to the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) where they learned about the importance of voting. In addition, they learned about how the right of voting has been historically taken away from African Americans and Latinos. They also learned that in order to fight for this right, organizations such as USHLI had to work very hard to assure that all citizens could exercise their right to vote. Students actually had the task of trying to register people walking on Jackson Avenue to vote. The students were not very successful and learned a good lesson about how hard it is to ensure that everyone has the ability to exercise this right. After spending about 45 minutes outside, we returned to USHLI to talk about how our work was similar to what Chavez did and how important it is.

A third initiative we are working on, administratively, is to create an in-house "transition plan" for our administrators where we address how we will be transitioning each new year group to the project-based plan, and how we will expose each existing year group to new curriculum-based projects. Our principal requested that we provide a transition plan in order to be able to request SIPAA funding for next year. We are planning to achieve this by doing two things. First, we are coming up with a list of 3-4 agencies per course team and creating flyers that teachers can post in their rooms to encourage students who enjoy those courses to engage in service connected to their course. Second, we'll be asking every teacher to include verbiage about the project-based requirement as well as suggested service sites on next year's syllabi. We are currently using a reworked reflection form to include questions that force the students to connect their service experience with a classroom topic, but reaching out to all course teams will be the next natural step to ensuring that this connection takes place.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Students and Principals Discuss School Improvement Issues at Feburary Summit

Students and Principals from throughout Chicago Public Schools gathered at Curie High School on Saturday, February 26, to discuss student perspectives on important school issues at the Harris Fellows Student/Principal Dialogue Summit.

Student leaders have expressed interest in meeting with principals to discuss the following issues: Standardized testing, teacher/student relationships, classroom management, and diversity in our schools.

After students gathered in the early morning to articulate their ideas and prepare presentations, principals joined the students to hear their insights and brainstorm ways to address their concerns.

In a session on standardized testing, students expressed concern that the tests do not assess them in a wholistic way. They are more interested in tests that assess their skills without being reduced to a set of multiple choice questions. Students also expressed concern that the tests drive instruction that does not build important life skills.

Students also discussed teacher/student relationships as well and identified teachers who take the time to get to know the students, understand their background, and demonstrate care for them are the most successful in the classroom.

The Student/Principal Dialogue Summit was the first of its kind. Students and principals left feeling inspired to continue the conversation. Princpals, in fact, signed a poster committing to attend follow-up summits.

Student voice continues to be an extremely important component of school improvement. Harris Fellows is interested in working with schools wanting to build organizational capacity to include student voice in decision-making at their schools. It's clear that students are ready for this important responsibility and the principals in attendance were clearly support of including student voice at their schools.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CPS Students Practice Democracy During City Elections

Thousands of CPS high school students were actively involved in the process of democracy over the past two months as Chicago elected a new mayor and saw dozens of competive aldermanic races take place. As important as the political outcome was in the short term for the city, it is of critical importance for the work of democracy that our young people continue to be actively engaged in the process of elections.

CPS students culminated their work on the elections by serving as Student Election Judges throughout the city on election day, February 22. According to Brian Brady, Executive Director of Mikva Challenge, the ability of the city to call the election so early was a testament to the work of the students who did their work efficiently and effectively. More than 1,600 CPS high school students spent the day from 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. staffing polling places in precincts throughout the city. At my own polling place, students from Amundsen and Rickover Naval Academy were on hand to greet voters and process their ballots. All told, CPS students delivered more than 21,000 hours of civic service to the city through their work.

Though much of the work happened on election day, students were active in the months and weeks leading up to the election as well. Several student groups held mock elections at their schools. At Steinmetz Academy, for example, 24 classrooms came to the library to vote in a mock election hosted by AVID students. Students also worked on election campaigns going door to door, phone banking, entering data. Their work was facilitated and supported by caring teachers or organizations like Mikva Challenge.

Students also attended mayoral forums where the candidates shared their view with voters. The Oriental Theatre hosted a major forum on February 17 sponosored by the League of Women Voters of Illinois. Dozens of CPS students attended and were enthralled by the proceedings.

In many schools across the city, students also created voter education materials to help neighborhood residents understand the issues and the candidates more clearly.

Though the city experienced a lower than expected voter turnout, our schools delivered a great turnout of high school students who will shape our democracy in years to come.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CPS High School Students Problem Solve Environmental Issues

130 students from six southeast side CPS high schools came together at the Environmental Protection Agency in downtown Chicago on Friday, February 18, 2011. The students, all participants in the Calumet Is My BackYard project, gathered together with 10 environmental professionals and activitists to practice their 21st century skills: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.

The environmental professionals presented a real world environmental problem such as invasive species removal, managing volunteers effectively, educating the public about the environment, and addressing the problem of deficient community green space, and then challenged the students to develop a strategy to address the problem.

Students worked together in teams to think critically about the component parts of the problem then used their skills of creativity and collaboration to develop potential strategies.

Environmental professionals from the Environmental Protection Agency, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Shedd Aquarium, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the City of Chicago's Department of the Environment, shared both their career stories and the messy problems they content with on a daily basis.

Here's what students said about the day:

  • Today was exciting. I really enjoyed standing up and presenting my knowledge in front of all the schools participating in this passionate environmental science program.
  • Today was very helpful. I was never aware of how much we can do as students. It opened my mind to ways we can help the community.
  • Today was interesting because I've never had a day this long that had me so engaged in learning about different aspects about the environment. What was most interesting was talking about the fish. I also think that was the most helpful.

Student participants were joining together for the fourth all-school event of the CIMBY program. In addition, they are learning about the environment of the Lake Calumet area in their classrooms and providing important stewardship services at natural sites throughout Chicago's southeast side.

Juarez Students Create Documentaries of Civic Action

At Benito Juarez Community Academy, students are documentarians.

Mr Ehler's sophomore Reading and Language Arts class partnered with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to record the occupation of Whittier Elementary School by local mothers. Students investigated the issues of the struggle with the AFSC and learned interview and videography techniques. They then took their new skills to La Casita, a community organization, where the high school students talked to Whittier students, teachers, and the activists themselves including mothers who fought for a library in their children's school.

The parents of Whittier students were shocked to hear that their field house was declared to be unsafe and was marked to be demolished for a soccer field. Whittier didn't have a library and mothers thought that should take priority. So they occupied the field house for more than 40 days, sometimes with scarce food and water, to fight for a library in their school. Groups of mothers have accomplished great things in the Latino community; it was mothers on a hunger strike that got Little Village High School built.

Mr Ehler saw the Whittier struggle as a great way to teach his students the importance of social movements while teaching them important skills. With the help of the American Friends Service Committee, he was able to teach his young people to ask interview questions that were unbiased and focused. His students also learned the strength in having a voice in your community and what we can do when we work together.

Watch a Juarez student's interview of a Whittier student here:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CPS Students Break Down Segregation through Hostelling International

Exchange Neighborhoods, an educational outreach program run by Hostelling International Chicago in partnership with Chicago Public School teachers, brings together students from different high schools to form relationships founded on mutual interests and a shared desire to work against mistrust, misperceptions, and ignorance.

To combat the cultural isolation of high schools and neighborhoods in Chicago, Exchange Neighborhoods participants visit each others’ schools to learn about each others’ cultures, schools, and neighborhoods. At the hostel, students cook and eat together, engage in team-building exercises, and share dorm-style rooms for an overnight. Throughout the program, students learn to appreciate their similarities and honor their differences.

Student outcomes are strong:

“I learned that being different is not a bad thing. While on this trip I learned you don’t have to be the same color to get along and try new things.” Chiquita, Harper High School

“Chicago Academy High School was a cool group of people. This helped me understand life more. It told me don’t be silent all your life, meet new people because you can learn new and different things about the person and their culture.” Faheed R., Orr High School

“I learned that even though many people are different from ourselves, when we all come together we get along and we find similarities.” Samantha, Kennedy High School

This school year, the following high schools are partnering with the hostel to bring Exchange Neighborhoods to their students: Taft, BEST, Juarez (twice), Harper, Kennedy, Orr, Chicago Academy, Kelvyn Park, Dyett, Douglass, and Hope.

If you would like to get on the waiting list to participate in the 2011-2012 school year, please contact Megan Johnson, Education Coordinator at HI-Chicago at

Monday, January 31, 2011

Kelvyn Park Students in Mulitple Content Areas Partner with Community Organizations to Deliver Blizzard of Classroom-Integrated Service

Students at Kelvyn Park have been very busy already this school year with curriculum-based service-learning projects. The social studies department participated in several exciting projects this fall. For example, AP Government students received training as election judges at the beginning of the school year through MIKVA Challenge and assisted with the November elections. Several students will also serve as election judges during this month’s mayoral election. In addition, students in psychology classes hosted speakers from the Jane Addams Senior Caucus and will be planning a project with the organization for later this semester.

Freshman English classes have also been hard at work on several service-learning projects. Our partnership with Reilly Elementary continues to thrive as the 9th grade students visit the elementary school once a month to tutor 1st graders in reading. The freshmen also planned and implemented a series of workshops on conflict resolution and bullying at Mozart Elementary School. The first workshop occurred on December 15 and the second workshop is scheduled for the beginning of March.

Finally, the AVID students in all four grade levels participated in the High School Heroes program with Junior Achievement. After receiving instruction in the JA curriculum, students taught a day-long workshop to students at Scammon Elementary School. Curriculum-based service-learning projects are also planned in Art I, Allied Health, P.E./Drivers Training, Biology, and English II before the end of the school year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicago Ag Students Brave Frigid Weather to Help the Environment

Twenty Chicago High School for Agricultural Science students and two teachers turned out in single digit weather on Saturday, January 22, to provide stewardship at Dolton Prairie. Chicago Ag students have been tending to this resilient 25-acre site on Chicago's southeast site for the past seven years. The results of their work are starting to manifest themselves. Long dormant wet prairie grasses, flowers, and shrubs are beginning to reappear thanks to the students who have removed invasive dogwood, phragmyte, buckthorn, and purple loosestrife at the site.

On the 22nd, students spent the morning hours cutting dogwood and buckthorn trees and saplings to make way for native prairie vegetation this spring. A special treat during the day was the brush fire that consumed several years worth of cut invasives and warmed the students. As Dolton Prairie continues its path to recovery, students will continue to conduct water and soil tests, gather native seeds in the fall, remove invasives, plant native vegetation, and monitor the emering and precious biodiversity of the sites. Students were able to identify tracks and scat from various animal species including voles, coyotes, and deer. When the health of a degraded site is restored, it creates new habitat opportunities for species native to Illinois.

Thanks to the students for rousing themselves out of bed on Saturday morning and braving the arctic temperatures.

Kelly Students Preparing Community for February Election

According to the Board of Elections, the 12th ward has the lowest voter turnout in the city of Chicago! As a result, the students of Kelly High School have made it their priority to spread the word on the importance of voting. Kelly students learned the importance of voting through out their classes, freshmen studied ancient Greece and the creation of DEMOCRACY, sophomores studied the U.S Constitution, juniors studied the struggles of minorities in American society to get the vote. As they have studies these important electoral issues, our students are also becoming fed up with the notion that their opinion does not count.

Well, these students are taking steps to insure that they are heard and that people/parents come out to vote. Kelly High School in partnership with Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and the Chicago Teachers Union, will host an Aldermanic Forum for the 12th ward. Students have been working hard getting the word out to parents and community members to attend. The forum will be held at Burroughs Elementary on Tuesday January 25, 2011 at 6:00pm.

On February 22….Election Day, students will work diligently to get residents of the 12th ward to the voting booth!! Our students understand that in order for our community to improve, we must elect individuals that are willing to listen to their constituents and genuinely care for the ward.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Southeast CPS Students Restoring Lake Calumet Forests and Wetlands

The CPS Service Learning Initiative is proud to be a long-time partner of the Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) Project. You may not have heard of it before now, but CIMBY carries the distinction of being one of the oldest environmental service-learning projects in the City of Chicago. It started small, back in 1998, by helping three southeast side high schools adopt natural areas in Chicago’s Calumet region where they performed cleanups and ecological restoration to improve the health of the native ecosystems. Now, CIMBY boasts the participation of students and teachers from 11 Chicago Public Schools high schools, who are working at 10 natural areas in Calumet!

CIMBY’s mission is to help strengthen and connect the human and natural communities on Chicago’s South Side by engaging high school students in ecological stewardship and locally-focused, real-world environmental science education – not only in the field, but also in the classroom and through a series of five annual in-depth workshops that bring together students from all participating CIMBY schools. CIMBY also places more than a dozen students each year in paid summer internships with local environmental organizations.

CIMBY’s 11 high schools have all put in at least one fall workday at their adopted site, where they have performed a range of tasks including cutting down invasive shrubs with hand saws and loppers, collecting and spreading native seed and collecting data on the health of the site’s plant communities. A few of them got to catch frogs or see white-tailed deer for the first time. And many of them roasted marshmallows over their brush pile fires! Most of the schools will make two or three more visits over the course of the winter and spring of 2011, for a total of about 500 students contributing more than 3,000 hours of service to advancing the health of Chicago’s small but unique patches of rare and wonderful nature.

If you happen to be out at your favorite south Chicago forest preserve or other natural area this winter or spring and see a group of determined-looking high school students chopping away at brush, you’re probably witnessing CIMBY in action. If you have time, stop and ask them to tell you about the work they’re doing. They’ll probably be thrilled to teach you about a couple of the invasive species they’re tackling. And let them know you – and mother nature – appreciate their hard work.

Monday, January 17, 2011

CPS Middle Schoolers Create Peaceful King Day

On the 2nd Annual Day of Service, 150 middle school students came to a Day of Dialogue and Peace at Medill Teacher Training Center. In the spirit of Dr. King, students created works of art - drums, music, spoken word and drama - and performed them for each other. Participating students are developing service-learning projects at their school this spring. The Day of Dialogue and Peace served as inspiration and a kick-off as these students seek to create peace and justice in their communities.

Meanwhile, 250 students who participate in Mikva Challenge questioned mayoral candidates on various issues at a mayoral form with the four top polling candidates. The televised event will be aired on WTTW-Channel 11 on Monday evening at 7:00 p.m. To view the forum after Monday, go to In addition, students from 19 high schools participated in service activities throughout the city and even as far away as the Indiana Dunes.

As hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country including President and Mrs. Obama served their communities, so too did CPS students. Congratulations on their outstanding work and commitment to their communities.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

GVA Students Serve at One Hope United Center

Joining more than 500 CPS students and teachers and 2,500 adult volunteers from Target, Kraft, and other companies, Global Vision and Bogan High School students served at the One Hope United Child Development Center on Saturday, January 15, in honor of Martin Luther King's birthday.

Marquesha Harden of Global Visions Academy calls King Day her favorite day of the year. It’s the most important day.” As Marquesha helped create colorful murals that would enliven the child development center, she said that "without Dr. King, we wouldn’t be able to plan our own future or make our voice stand out.”

Marquesha continued: “Volunteering builds your confidence. You feel good about yourself. It lets you know you did something good for someone. And it brings people together. It’s great to meet new people.”

Another GVA student, Kinyaba Leviston, liked the idea of people working together. "No one is arguing. We're helping other people. Everyone is just getting along in order to help others."

Students spend the day working at senior centers, elementary schools, social service centers, libraries, and homeless shelters.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

CPS Students Serving Chicago Right Now!

Mayor Richard Daley and Chris Gardner (In Pursuit of Happyness) welcomed 500 CPS high school students and 2,500 adult volunteers to Union Station this morning as Chicago Cares kicked off its annual Celebration of Service. It was a gorgeous scene. So many smiling, enthusiastic faces ready to do good in throughout the city of Chicago. Our students are serving right now at 20 different locations.

Chris Gardner marveled at the sight of so many young people: "You are the young people we never hear about. You are going to make a change in someone's life today. Thank you for coming."

Okay, off we go. It's going to be a great day as we continue to live out the dream. If you'd like to see an inspiring video about the day, go to

Friday, January 14, 2011

MLK 2011 - CPS Students to Serve Throughout the City!

MLK 2011 is almost upon us. 2011 is the 25th anniversary of the King Day Holiday and the second National Day of Service. Responding to his work and legacy, CPS students will fan out across the city on Saturday, January 15 and Monday, January 17, 2011.

600 students will join Chicago Cares and 2,500 adult volunteers on Saturday at schools and organizations throughout the city in the annual Celebration of Service. Mayor Richard Daley will welcome the volunteers at Union Station and thank them for their commitments before our students and other adults depart on buses to every corner of the city to serve their fellow citizens, young and old.

On Monday, January 17, the official National Day of Service, 19 student groups will make peace through service at community centers, food pantries, the Indiana Dunes, and senior centers. 150 middle school students will participate in the King Day of Dialogue - Creating Peace, at Medill Teacher Training Center by exploring the life of King through the arts and then creating their own works of art. Finally, 250 CPS students will travel to WTTW - Channel 11 to grill mayoral candidates in a locally televised mayoral forum to be broadcast Monday evening at 7:00 p.m.

If you've not already done so, consider serving somewhere this weekend. You will be joining hundreds of thousands of Americans committed to peace and justice. As King said in his famous sermon The Drum Major Instinct: "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CPS Teachers Begin to Focus on Mayoral Election

20 CPS middle and high school teachers gathered for a professional development session on January 10, 2011, to learn about how to use the upcoming mayoral election as a service-learning opportunity. For the first time in more than twenty years, the City of Chicago will experience a competitive election after Mayor Daley steps down following 21 years in office.

For the learning process, Mikva Challenge has produced a new just-in-time curriculum for the mayoral election. The election features five interactive lessons designed to get students excited about the election process, the candidates, and the issues as the students experience them. If you are interested in accessing the curriculum, go to

Students are also able to add their own thoughts and ideas and hear from other students at two new websites. At, students around the city have added their voices to the campaign, writing or creating videos about what they think the new mayor should address. And at, students are submitting one-minute videos to encourage their peers to participate in the election. Students already participating in Mikva Challenge programs will be participating and helping to lead a televised mayoral forum on Monday, January 17, 2011, at the studios to WTTW - Channel 11. The forum will be broadcast at 7:00 p.m. on that same day.

The election presents numerous opportunities for action. Students can get involved in election campaigns through Mikva Challenge (go to for more details) or with the guidance of a classroom teacher, participate in get out the vote campaigns with local civic associations, or create local voter education guides (contact for more details about these guides). Additionally, thousands of CPS high school students will be serving as polling place election judges on Election Day, February 22, 2011.

It promises to be an exciting election season this year. Encourage your students to get involved. It's what makes a democracy work.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Corliss Students Connect with Senior Citizens through Memory Bridge

Corliss High School has participated in the "Memory Bridge" program for the past two years after school. Corliss students have built a rapport with residents at Waterfront Terrace facility, located at 7750 S Shore Drive. There tends to be the stereotype that teenagers and the elderly might not be able to make a connection with each other. "Memory Bridge" proves, however, that this is just not true. Corliss students have come back from their "Buddy visits" with new-found appreciation of the life-experiences of the residents at Waterfront Terrace. For example, one woman--who is 103 years old!--shared her story of growing up in Mississippi and picking "500 pounds of cotton" when she was younger. Another Buddy impressed his student with his experience of having survived being shot. These stories certainly have given the participants real-world examples of what is covered in the textbook. So even though "Memory Bridge" is a program designed for students to help another person overcome the effects of Alzheimer's and dementia, it has had a tremendous impact on how teenagers see the world.

Another way that the program has impacted Corliss students is in the classroom. Students spent a couple weeks getting to know each other and learning the cardinal principles of "respect, attention, and energetic empathy" before they even step foot in the facility to interact with their "Buddies". These in-class sessions require students to view videos about what to expect with their visits, create an "I-land" map about themselves to share with their classmates and get to knoweach other better, and reflect on their experiences in their visits afterwards. Students improved their listening skills by attending to their classmates when they are presenting and also responding to the experiences of others.

It has made their teacher, Mr. Davis, proud to see the respect each student has given to classmates--even when sharing details about themselves they never have divulged before. In this way the program has had an impact on student success in the classroom. Teachers rarely have the opportunity to make a connection with their students on such a personal level. Yet "Memory Bridge" allowed Mr. Davis the opportunity to share who he is with his students through his own "I-land map"--while also having a deeper appreciation of who they are--so that he can work more effectively with them in his Social Science or Spanish class.

In these ways Corliss High School students and teachers have benefited from participating in the "Memory Bridge" program the past two years. While the program is designed to impact members of the community and meet a need of the elderly--which it certainly has by making a connection between the high school and Waterfront Terrace--this additional benefit makes it a truly successful endeavor for Corliss High School students.