Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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.

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