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for Place-Based Service-Learning and Sustainability

CWI's Unique Approach is Place Based Service-Learning
subscribeWe see service-learning as a crucial part of a larger effort to connect and engage students. Our approach is to first consider place as the context, service-learning as the strategy, and sustainable communities as the goal. To achieve this we begin our work with educators by considering what sustainable communities look like, and how to connect students to a sense of place—their place—in ways that will inform their choices of service and social action. Student voice and creating real reciprocity (genuine two-way street relationships) are absolutely inherent to high quality service-learning.

We understand student voice as a "continuum," an ongoing process, where while it is essential that students do participate on some level in making informed choices, teachers also face limits of time, comfort, and experience. Our goal in our work with educators and schools is to set a process in motion that is grounded in a shared belief that student voice hugely deepens student engagement in learning, and in the world around them. This process takes time and practice that are well worth the effort.
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A Framework for Place Based Service-Learning and Sustainability
We use a framework that sets one's local place as the context with service at the center of experience. The goal is to contribute to a sustainable and just community. CWI's design framework can be applied across K-16 or community based settings, to any academic skill, content, or program area. CWI framework may be used for a single project, or as part of a long term program or campus wide focus on "place", service and community engagement.

service learning

Our Core Principles for Place Based Service-Learning

We have identified four core principles that we emphasize in our professional development and program design work. These core principles came out of our experience working with educators in the field over many years. Applying these principles help to set the stage for successful service-learning and long lasting academic and social development
A Compelling Sense of Purpose
The work resonates strongly with educators and students personally and has a clearly understood value to the community.

Academic Integrity
Learning objectives are well defined, understood by all, and connected to standards, local curriculum and school or program goals.

Student Engagement and Reciprocity
Emphasis is placed upon investing students as real partners and collaborators in the experience.

Meaningful Integrated Reflection
The experience is intentionally deepened and learning is reinforced through multiple and creative forms of reflection.

Curriculum projects and programs that use CWI's framework incorporate a series of field tested best practices, at both the instructional and site level. New relationships and roles, along with partnerships with the local community are an important and inherent part of this process. Deepened collaborations among educators, students and community members are a result of learning to work together in new ways.

Teaching Implications for Place Based Service-Learning

• Direct application of content learning and skills, in meaningful service to the community.

• Intellectual inquiry, risk-taking, with opportunities for powerful collaboration.

• Developing personal values of respect, integrity, compassion and social justice.

• Using the local community and the world as the classroom.

• Active contribution to a democratic society, social justice, and the global community.

• A reminder of the reason you became an educator.

The process of inquiry and discovery involved in place based education leads to a deeper understanding of the nature of community itself., in all its forms. This in turn leads to uncovering the interconnectedness of people, cultures, place, the natural world, and our own role in that. We use a process that we call "community ethnography" to facilitate students exploring and understanding the place they call home. We begin from a premise that every place is unique and special with a story to tell.

The Power of Place Based Service-Learning
service learningService-learning possesses a transformative power for students, schools and communities. Through thoughtful engagement in service-learning, we as educators create the opportunity to practice the kind of behavior we want to encourage in our students by emphasizing the importance of caring for others and responding to community needs. By participating in an endeavor that benefits others, students enlarge their view of the world and of themselves while learning new skills, practicing personal and social skills, and applying content knowledge in an experiential context.
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
—Paulo Freire
Toward the Larger Goal of Sustainable Communities
Service-learning provides an ideal way to work toward the larger goal of Sustainability. The three primary goals of the Sustainability movement are environmental integrity, economic prosperity, and social equity. Education for Sustainability (EFS) is a process that helps to bring these three goals closer to reality. It promotes an understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment, economy, and society. A more in depth discussion can be found here.

To connect students to a larger sense of purpose we see sustainability as the goal—place as the context—service-learning as the strategy. In other words, we are helping our students learn to be citizens working for sustainability—for communities that do well economically, environmentally and socially now and in the future. so often in service-learning activities stems from students’ sense of purpose and accomplishment in meeting a real community need.

The Best Practices for Service-Learning
For more than two decades, The Best Practices for Service-Learning have been a highly effective and evolving tool, used in formal CWI trainings and professional development workshops and professional learning study groups to advance the use of service-learning in classrooms, schools and programs. Since 1995, educators attending CWI's acclaimed Summer Institutes have used the Best Practices for Service-Learning as both a planning and reflective evaluation tool. Teachers have also used the best practices with adult advisory teams and older students, in co-planning and evaluating service-learning projects and activities.

The Best Practices for Service-Learning are designed for novice and experienced practitioners alike. They suggest both starting points and areas of reexamination––a focus for dialogue among educators. CWI has evolved two distinct sets of Best Practices, one at the instructional level, and one for use at the site or school level.

Site Level Best Practices for Service-Learning
The Site Level Best Practices are specifically designed to help school and program leaders envision and create a supportive environment for high-quality service-learning. These practices suggest guidelines for making service-learning central to a school or program’s mission, supporting it with funding and policy decisions, and providing training and professional development opportunities for teachers. Educators who have successfully incorporated service-learning into their practice can still find themselves struggling if school or organizational policy does not support their efforts. These educator leaders can bring the Site Level Best Practices to the attention of their principal or superintendent to gain support for their work.

We Support Efforts at the Local School Level
CWI supports local educators, from schools and communities across the U.S. to international schools and organizations. Our on-site consulting work with K-16 schools and organizations includes extended site based professional development, workshops and retreats—from Boston to Oregon, and from Europe to Asia. Learn how we can support your goals with a customized professional development event. CWI workshops and trainings are highly interactive and create a shared sense of purpose and direction for school faculty.
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