CommonLore is looking back and forward simultaneously—through an educational and community building learning process. We are supporting teachers and students working to uncover what is unique and special within their very local communities.
Research shows that place based education and service-learning contribute significantly to:
• Student achievement
• Personal development
• Community engagement
• Social responsibility
• Student empowerment
Why CommonLore is Important for Students
CommonLore, a program of Community Works Institute (CWI), is a multi-year professional development program for K-16 and community based educators in the Los Angeles area. We see the crucial need to deeply involve K-16 educators and their students in a process of cultivating a “remembering,” coupled with an understanding of the present that looks forward.
"During the Summer Institute with CWI our cohort explored the map of the LA River, identifying its headwaters and tributaries. We found out that the lake in MacArthur Park in our school's Westlake neighborhood is fed by natural springs and is a watershed for the River. My students were excited to learn this and now want to start a park beautification project to support the ecological health of the urban park and its surroundings. Currently we are learning about the native plants and animal species and other species that have been introduced. On our walkabout, the students plan to learn more about the habitat and the relationships that people have with their environment. We are also creating a needs assessment survey to find out how the community can make deeper connections to their natural habitat."
Paul Lowe, LAUSD Teacher
We Start with Professional Development
CommonLore’s professional development approach provides local teachers with the inspiration, tools, and collaborative support needed to create deeply engaging and relevant curriculum that encourages students to follow their own curiosity in discovering their community's past, exploring its present, while becoming visionaries and advocates for the future. CommonLore participants' collective work will serve and celebrate a larger sense of place and common purpose.
Place Based Service-Learning as a Powerful Pedagogy
CommonLore's focus is on using Place as the Context, Service-Learning as the Strategy, and Sustainable Communities as the Goal. Our core objective is to connect students to their own local communities, through curriculum and programs collaboratively developed by local educators.
Service-Learning is a Strategy
that combines academic and social education goals to meet real community needs. It requires the application of knowledge, skills, and systematic reflection about the experience.
Place Based Learning is a Teaching Approach
that uses each community’s unique local culture, history, environment, and resources, to teach essential skills and concepts. This provides a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, math, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.
"CWI and CommonLore brought together a wonderfully diverse group of people dedicated to education: various grade levels, a diversity of socioeconomic experiences, many different educational settings and foci, and a tremendous variety of cultural referents and outlooks on reality. There was a breadth of experiences and passions, ideas and experience, yet enough of a crossover that we were able to see each other as less of the “other” and more as a partner. We symbolically linked arms and pulled each other along through this shared journey."
French, Teacher, LAUSD
T. S. Starr Middle School
Among our larger goals is contributing to inclusive and connected communities that value shared needs, solutions, and innovations. We envision students becoming the catalyst for interest and investment in the history, culture, and future of their own local communities.
Celebrating our First CommonLore Educator Cohort
We marked our first gathering of Los Angeles area K-16 and community based educators this year. Our first educator cohort spent a remarkable week together at CWI’s Summer WEST Institute, focused on developing community focused learning experiences for their students, with the LA River as our touchstone. Our inaugural cohort came from schools and organizations that ranged from Cal State Northridge, to MacArthur Park, and on to South Central. After a week of powerful collaboration and curriculum development these educators are now involving their students in the process of community inquiry and service in their local neighborhoods.