Thursday, April 27, 2017

Happy Service-Learning Day! @FairfieldU Celebrating Partnerships

First off, I must acknowledge that I have a tremendous cohort of undergraduates this semester and, to top it all off, I have Ally - the super service-learning associate that was assigned to my Philosophy of Education course. Ally has not only helped coordinate the community art piece we will give to our Columbus School partners, but she put together a wonderful short film of all our students making declarations from their philosophical statements.

Today is Service-Learning Day at Fairfield University and I'm so happy I went through the orientation, workshops, discussions, and coaching with Melissa Quann and Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka a few years ago. Although I didn't design a course for undergraduates (or philosophy), I worked on graduate courses and the summer teacher institute. With their support, I began to move our success with Ubuntu Academy during the summer into course collaborations in the fall and spring. Specifically, William King at Bassick High School and his students have been working with graduate students in writing and reading courses. It has been remarkable.

Over the last year and a half, however, I've also been reaching out to K-8 schools with service learning opportunities, finally finding a wonderful match with Columbus (with support from a Commissioner Turn-Around grant from the state). This year, while Fairfield students went to the Columbus school to assist instruction, Columbus students also came to campus to participate in a series of workshops. I didn't know how 5th-8th grade students would do in a 2.5 hour turbo-course, but we had 100% response that the work flew by (and the teachers were amazed at what the young people produced in this time).

For me, the audience was vast. In my design of on-campus lessons I had to (a) model a lesson for the teachers, (b) meet course objectives for my students and (c) keep the middle schoolers engaged while pushing them towards grade-level expectations. What worked in my favor - well, everyone's favor - was that my undergraduates stepped up and in to participate with the young writers (even when we did science activities). I have to say, too, that the young people from Columbus stepped up and in, too (alerting teachers to behaviors they reported they've never seen before).

Today, I'm applauding the Office of Service Learning, their faculty and staff, and the community partnerships we share in pursuit of who we are together. It's a great day for the work we do!

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