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.