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.