Education for the 21st Century


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home : union grove : union grove October 31, 2009

10/23/2009 1:38:00 PM  Email this articlePrint this article 
Education for the 21st Century
Raymond School receives national recognition for innovative service-learning program

Karen Mahoney

Imagine Kindergarten students taking responsibility for the school’s recycling program, or fifth-graders measuring a walking track, adding their distances at the end of the year and applying that to the distance on a Wisconsin map. Or sixth grade students working with WE Energies to learn energy savings strategies and apply those methods to school and home.

At Raymond School in Franksville, integrating community-based activities with the school curriculum is an everyday occurrence, and one that has not gone unnoticed. Students and staff are enjoying a taste of success after winning one of 10 national awards for service-oriented education.

Sponsored by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) and the National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC), the School of Success Award was presented to Raymond School in August in support of five elements critical to the successful, school-based integration of service-learning.

Service-learning is a teaching and learning method used to engage students and teachers in their communities, in ways directly aligned with their curriculum. For Raymond School, the service learning methods are not only creative, but seem to build an increased incentive for learning.

Recognized for meaningful service, linking the activities to curriculum, reflection, diversity, youth voice and partnerships, progress monitoring and duration and intensity, Raymond stands out among top schools in engaging its students.

According to Communications Director Barbara Messick, service learning has benefited students by equipping them with problem-solving skills and leadership opportunities that encourage students to make meaningful contributions to the school and community, preparing them to be successful in the world of work.

“The recognition, professional development, and financial award will support our efforts to expand and deepen our integration of civic engagement and service-learning at Raymond School,” she said. “We will be working on institutionalization strategies that will sustain and expand high quality service-learning instructional practices for all students and our community.”

Raymond will receive a $10,000 award over two years to expand and deepen existing service-learning initiatives, and build greater capacity within the district. In return, Raymond will be asked to test and learn from leadership strategies that integrate and sustain quality service-learning for all students to succeed in school and in their communities.

The award is supported with a grant from the State Farm Companies Foundation, building on NCLC efforts over eight years to support, encourage and reward sustainability of quality service-learning. State Farm and NCLC share the goal of enhancing the knowledge, skills and will of education policymakers and leaders to increase state and district policies reflecting the components of quality service-learning.

Without support from parents, students, staff and the Raymond Board of Education, the chance to win the award would have not been possible, said Messick.

“Our school board members have been very supportive of our students’ leadership and successes,” she said. “They have provided not only recognition to these students, but also financial recourses, personal time and aligned board policies and strategic plans to support the school’s focus on civic engagement and service-learning.”

In its fifth year, Raymond’s program is designed to prepare students for the 21st century, and what’s more, the students are having fun becoming leaders.

“To me, service-learning means that everyone has a voice in the community,” said Jessica DeGroot, eighth grade, “Usually, when you are not an adult, you don’t have much of a say in anything and your parents or other people make the decisions for you. In service-learning however, it is mainly led by us, the students.”

Students take learning on the road

After two fatal bike accidents in the community, students initiated a year-long bicycling safety campaign. Their efforts took on several facets including a parade float on bicycle safety at the Independence Day parade, a recent Fall Bike Safety Fair on Oct. 16, as well as extensive research and eventual partnership with community members to create safe bike baths in the Raymond area.

Eighth grade student Dylan Sauder is not only concerned about bike safety; he is learning what it means to be able to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Rather than work as two separate forces, the town and school are developing a partnership in order to make our school and community the best and safest they can be,” he said. “No longer are students ‘seen and not heard.’ Through service-learning, we have gained a voice in the choices and changes that will affect our lives more than anyone else’s.”

In addition to the award, staff members, such as George Slupski, district administrator/principal, Stacy Stock, seventh and eighth grade teacher; and Shelley Caron, second grade teacher, will join staff from other winning schools at the NCLC conference in Denver later this fall.

“The objective will be to help schools more fully integrate, share, and support service-learning policies,” said Messick. “NCLC, with the 10 schools will create products that inform and encourage other states, districts, and schools to incorporate service-learning

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