As all parents of PFFS 8th graders should know by now, a significant part of our Graduation Portfolio includes a Service Learning requirement. This requirement can be met in one of two ways: students can “plug into” an already existing service oriented organization/event and complete at least 20 hours or they can design their own project, devoting at least 10 hours of time (the thinking being that this latter option represents more initiative). For either option, students incorporate their learning into either their Social Justice or their Environmental Sustainability portfolio reflections. To read descriptions of the entire Graduation Portfolio process at each Paulo Freire school please see PFFS-Downtown or PFFS-University.
We have had this service learning requirement since the inception of PFFS-University and although students sometimes grumble and struggle, in the end the vast majority of our graduates have found their experiences to be worth it. Here are some examples of what students have done in the past:
- Volunteered at a retirement home usually playing cards with some of the residents. At the end there was a party where everyone sang songs and danced;
- Worked to raise awareness about the problem of endangered species by focusing specifically on narwhals; the student made informational flyers and passed them out with homemade “narwhal” bracelets;
- Raised awareness in school about juvenile diabetes (a condition his younger brother had) by first doing a presentation in morning meeting and then raising money by participating in the Walk To Stop Diabetes event;
- Made homemade “pillowcase” dresses to be sent to a village in Africa so girls could attend the local elementary school;
- Constructed a birdhouse and then donated it to the Botanical Gardens to auction;
- Raised awareness about clean water access in Africa; and
- Volunteered at sister’s elementary school.
Research tells us that service-learning improves student learning outcomes and contributes to student personal and social development. Benefits include greater ability to problem solve, think critically and communicate with adults, making connections between school learning and its application to the real word, and a greater sense of personal efficacy and identity. Some service learning projects can also reduce stereotypes and facilitates cultural and racial understanding.
Additionally, teachers also report benefits from service learning programs and of course the community benefits from these efforts as well. So it’s a win-win-win situation.
In the next few weeks, staffs at both schools will work to highlight opportunities for service for those 8th graders who still do not know what they plan to do. Three school related events that need volunteers include:
- Edcamp Tucson 2 – Sat. Feb. 13 (8:00 am-1:00 pm): Student Ambassadors to greet and guide participants;
- Tucson Festival of Books – Sat & Sun Mar. 12-13 (all day): Share info about schools; and
- Pennington Street Block Party – Fri. Apr. 15 (4:00-9:00 pm): Help setting up and cleaning up.
If you are an 8th grader and are interested in volunteering at any of these events, let your advisor and/or administrator know. And 7th graders – it’s never too early to start thinking about how you might like to make a difference!