Friday, May 25, 2012

CIMBY Completes 12th Year at Science Summit

Calumet Is My Back Yard, the longest-running service-learning project in the nation, completed its 12th successful year with a Science Summit at the Field Museum on Friday, May 25, 2012.  More than 200 students and teachers attend the culminating summit that featured behind-the-scenes scientific tours, student presentations of their stewardship over the year, and visits to stunning museum exhibits. 

During the 2011-12 academic year, more than 800 students participated in 40+ stewardship days at natural areas throughout the Lake Calumet region on the city's south side.  Fifteen high schools engaged classrooms in hands-on science activities enabling students to learning about ecosystems, biodiversity, and the threats that non-native invasive species pose to our ecology. 

This year student groups were asked to present their stewardship work over the course of the year.  Students created presentation boards, videos, slide shows, games, and field guides of the plants and animals at their adopted ecosystem.  Students did a great job building and presenting their materials.

As one student said at the end of the day:  CIMBY is a great opportunity and it can change your life.  The goal of CIMBY is to raise the next generation of environmental leaders and activists.  CIMBY students are lucky enough to move beyond the textbook into our natural areas to gain a deeper understanding of the threats to our environment and how they, together, can work toward solutions. 

Many, many thanks to the amazing teachers and CIMBY staff who gave countless hours to helping make these exciting opportunities available.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CPS Recognizes Service-Learning Coaches

Isaac Castelaz from Chicago Academy receives
SL Administator of the Year Award
100 CPS teachers, SL Coaches, students, parents, and community partners gathered at The Phoenix Restaurant on Wednesday, May 23, to celebrate a year of amazing accomplishments and to recognize the staggeringly good work of the District's Service-Learning Coaches.  Our Service-Learning Coaches put in countless hours doing wonderful work connecting students, teachers, and curriculum to opportunities to contribute to the greater good in their communities.  The results can be stunning as students recognize, many for the first time, that they can be world changers. 

In addition to recognizing the work of our excellent SL Coaches, awards were also given to outstanding leaders in service-learning:

SL Coach of the Year
Deborah Hawes, Morgan Park High School

Teachers of the Year
Adam Heenan, Curie
Eddie Marie Gonzalzes, Morgan Park
Jeschelyn Pilar, Hancock

Administrator of the Year
Isaac Castelaz, Chicago Academy High School

Students of the Year
Adonis Hill, Hope College Prep
Stephanie Navarette, Kelly High School
Kaylan Elder, Al Raby High School
Emmanuel Cherry, Hubbard High School
Tasanee Durrett, Morgan Park High School
Erika Castillo, Curie High School

Community Partner of the Year
Alliance for Climate Education (ACE)

Congratulations to this year's winners.  Their accomplishments are truly astonishing. But our thanks go to all of the nominees who were recognized for their contributions and to all coaches who have served so faithfully this year.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Belmont-Cragin Students Race Against Hunger

Students from Belmont-Cragin Elementary School partnered with Prosser High School for a Race Against Hunger on Friday afternoon, May 11.

With support from international hunger relief organization Action Against Hunger, the entire Belmont-Cragin faculty, administration, and student body learned about hunger around the world then went into action by participating in a race against hunger.  Students learned about hunger utilizing inter-disciplinary curriculum then planned and implemented their race. 

On a gorgeous Friday afternoon, Belmont-Cragin students rode the bus or, in the case of the middle school students, marched with banners from their school to Prosser's Hanson Park stadium where they were greeted and hosted by Prosser High School students.

After opening presentations by Principals Stewart and Hunter and Belmont-Cragin students, each grade level took to the track and ran at least one lap around the quarter-mile track.  Students sought pledges for their laps and students proudly shouted out the amounts they had raised...$3, $4.  The amounts were not important; the fact that students brought so much enthusiasm and energy to address the problem of world-wide hunger was important.

Action Against Hunger is establishing a strong presence in Chicago and enables students to connect academic learning in science, math, english, social science, physical education, the arts, and health to an important social issue, in this case hunger in Zimbabwe.  For more information about how your school can be involved, please contact

Thanks to Belmont-Cragin teachers and Principal Stewart for providing leadership for this amazing event.  Belmont-Cragin is one of 10 elementary schools currently participating in a District-wide initiative to connect the STEM disciplines to service-learning. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eric Solorio HS Students "Cook" with Peers with Severe and Profound Disabilities

As students walk through the halls at Solorio, a cluster of students walk by and some might be in wheelchairs, others might be humming and making noises, but most are smiling. They are stared at, whispered about, and many have questions but do not know how to approach the four or so adults who are walking with them.

This was the typical scenario in the hallways of Solorio until the teachers in the SPH room start to invite teachers from the “regular” divisions on Fridays to “cook” with the students in the Severe and Profound cluster. Teachers were to prepare the students the week prior in a discussion on the different labels of disabilities. They were to write down any questions of behaviors that they might have witnessed in the halls, cafeteria or non content classes that they might share with the SPH kids.

During the assigned day, the division would come down and be exposed to the students, ask their questions, and be educated about the students with severe and profound disabilities. After that portion of the SLC class was complete, the “regular” students would be placed with one of the kids and help them cook. Helping them cook would include helping them identify the different ingredients by pointing or helping them hand over hand pick up the ingredients.

The menu the students have made included: pizza bagels, tostadas, smoothies, fruit salads, and quesadillas. The lesson for the “regular” students is to be exposed, understand, and be aware of what the different behaviors of the students represent.

The experience for the students in the SPH cluster is having “friends” come to the room and help them how to make something good to eat. The week after, division teachers speak with their students about the experience and what did they learn about the kids, their feelings about it, their easy or uneasiness with being with the students.

Various divisions loved the experience enough to inquire how to enhance awareness about disabilities. They have started their own project to come up with stations that mimic disabilities and the trial and tribulations that people with disabilities have to overcome. This will be offered for other divisions to attend during next school years Fridays SLC time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

3000 Students Celebrate Chicago Youth Service Day

3000 CPS and DePaul University students celebrated Chicago Youth Service Day on Saturday, May 05, 2012, with a Peace Rally at Union Park on the city's West Side.  Students from across the city served in a variety of capacities during the morning then convened at Union Park for a massive rally.  Highlights from the Peace Rally included radio DeeJay FM Supreme, community activist Ameena Matthews from Cease Fire, and the a spoken word performance by TEAM Englewood students.  

Prior to the rally, students enjoyed an afternoon of activities including hip hop dancing, live graffiti art, face-painting, peace posters, and team building games.  More than a dozen community organizations also offered students the opportunity to extend their day of learning by continuing their volunteer or advocacy work.  

The message of the day was peace.  Joy McCormack, the mother of slain DePaul student Frankie Valencia, exhorted the students to take seriously their ability to create peace in their communities.  Ameena Matthews challenged the students to leave the celebration with a renewed commitment to become a peace maker. 

Two DePaul students and one Roosevelt High School student spoke of their semester-long efforts through the Community Peace Makers Initiative.  CPS students, with the support of DePaul graduate and undergraduate students, studied the problem of violence and attempted to understand the root causes of violence.  Each of the 20 groups created a peace project as a culminating to to their studies.  Roosevelt High School, for example, staged a highly successful peace march.  

Throughout the day students from 50 high schools and ten middle schools worked with seniors, did restoration work in forest preserves, completed renovation projects at community organizations, and worked at environmental sites throughout the city.  

The third annual Chicago Youth Service Day was a huge success.  

Unfortunately, political leaders and Chicago's media chose not to attend.  It is a sad fact that the efforts and spirit of young leaders in Chicago is not important enough to draw their attention. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sophomores and Seniors Collaborate on Hancock High School’s First Peace Night

On Tuesday, March 27, students from the Senior Seminar and English II classes hosted a Peace Night at Hancock High School.  The night featured a free viewing of the documentary The Interrupters followed by conflict-resolution workshops. 

The documentary profiles the work of Ceasefire, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that aims to prevent street violence.  Students had an opportunity to reflect on the film during the workshops, which were facilitated by the Senior Seminar students.
Both the seniors and the sophomores spent several weeks preparing for the event.  The seniors attended a peace circle training in March and have been working with a DePaul University student all semester on building conflict-resolution skills.  Meanwhile, the English II students researched the different types of bullying and prepared presentations for each division about the risks of bullying and its consequences.  The night was a great success, and we hope it will become an annual event.