Service Learning: Real-Life Applications for Learning

>>Tom: When we’re producing
food, there’s that purpose and that brings relevance. It’s all about student
engagement and by engagement, I’m not talking about
just paying attention. I’m talking about
like an emotional, psychological commitment
to their learning.>>Anne: We’re always studying
these things in the context of this classroom
or in a textbook, and that’s not necessarily
authentic. Service learning is any
kind of project or unit that takes the required
curriculum and finds applications
in the community. So it’s going to end up having
a real life product or meaning. You have a third party
right in front of you. The school definitely has needs. How can your class meet them? The greenhouse is a really
great example of a way that service learning can
actually benefit the same group that is doing studying.>>Tom: Every kid is
part of the food system, so the relevance is there. The original vision
for the greenhouse was that biology students were
going to grow salad greens. Using biology students
guaranteed that every kid in the school was
going to get exposure. The daily operations of salad
green production involves them tending their plants
on a daily basis. Each student has
two of those trays. They plant them, they water
them, they monitor them for pests, they thin them out.>>William: We learned all
about soil, fertilization, what the plants need and
taking care of the plants in general, which was great.>>Sam: We harvest them
Mondays and Wednesday mornings. Those are taken to the cafeteria and distributed throughout
the entire district. The greens are not only
eaten here within the school, but they’re also eaten
at the middle school and the elementary school.>>Betty: We can use
everything that they grow. I pay for the greens,
that’s why we document it. They are more apt to take
greens from the salad bar if it’s something that
they’ve seen and grown. They’re a little
bit proud of that.>>William: Having so much
effect on what we’re eating in school, it feels really nice. It feels like you’ve
accomplished something.>>Tom: We don’t necessarily want to get things planted
as soon as they can. We want to kind of work
backwards from the school year in the fall so that what you’re
planting, what you’re growing, will be ready when the
kids are back in school.>>In my environmental
applications class, service learning is a key piece. They get the outdoor
gardens started. They’ll set up management
and harvest plans for the next year’s
class to come in. Within that structure of the
service learning projects, these different initiatives
and projects come about. For example, we add different
crops, the hoop house, the irrigation system,
and aquaponics.>>William: The fishes’
waste is toxic to us, but when the plants get a hold
of it, they take the nitrogen and other helpful things in it
and turn it into food for us.>>Tom: They have action plans
that they have to develop. They have different rubrics
that they assess themselves, and I assess them
every other week to see if they’re sticking
to those plans. They blog about it at
least every other week.>>William: There’s
lots of opportunities to apply our learning and make
it relevant to the real world, because why learn it if
it doesn’t mean anything?>>Anne: When I think
about how I’m going to incorporate service
learning into my curriculum, I first look at, what
are my objectives? What do I want kids to walk away with by the time
this unit is over? How are the kids going to
get from not knowing anything to a final product that
is useful and helpful? As part of teaching
physics, one of the ways that heat transfer can be talked
about is through the process of making bio char, which is
charcoal used like fertilizer.>>We’re looking at
the efficiency of–>>Student: How fast
it will burn water.>>Anne: How fast it
will heat up water. We need the mass of the wood
beforehand and we need the mass of the unburned wood afterwards.>>Kids are designing
their own systems that will create this bio char. We’ll inoculate it
with some bacteria and probably see how much
does it increase crop yields and do some experiments
with that. Service learning projects take
ballpark three or four weeks, which is a substantial
commitment, but it’s going to be relevant. The kids are going to
remember it forever, so it’s totally worth it because
engagement is so much higher.>>What do you think, is it
going to change it a lot?>>Student: Yeah.>>Student: Yeah, I think so.>>Student: Yeah.>>Tom: There really is also
this work component to it. It’s tied into their
grades in different ways, but the level responsibility,
salad greens in the greenhouse. You skip it for a day
and they could die. That level of responsibility, we didn’t realize how
big that was going to be.>>Anne: They have an external
reason to care; it’s not just about the grades for them. I’ve often seen kids who
are not really that engaged in school come alive when they
get to project that’s going to mean something
to someone else.>>Tom: Former students come
back and talk about how that, you know, really
transformed them.

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