Civic Engagement and Service Learning
For the last two years the Oppenheimer Family Foundation has supported a pilot initiative in Chicago Public Schools to engage middle school students in service learning. Service-Learning is a proven civic education practice that connects classroom curriculum with service projects that contribute to the common good of the community while building social, civic and academic skills.Teachers and students that engage in service-learning projects complete a three stage process of preparation, action and reflection that enables students to explore community issues, formulate questions, develop a plan of action, collaborate with peers, think critically about complex issues, participate in meaningful service projects, and analyze the impact of their experience.
In 2014-2015 school year service projects ranged from a digital awareness video about autism created by students at McClellan Elementary to students from Poe Classical School partnering with the local assisted living center for a day of intergenerational dialogue and crafts.
This year, 18 CPS elementary schools, 14 of which are neighborhood schools, are participating in our Middle School Civic Engagement Pilot Initiative. To build on the success of last year, we have added opportunities for professional development to support teachers and an additional convening of students to support positive youth leadership development. In order to maximize impact on the student body, we have begun a companion initiative, through funding from the McCormick Foundation, to begin Student Voice Committees in participating schools. Together, these two programs will give middle school students the skills and experiences they need to not only be active engaged adults in our democracy, but to participate right now.
To culminate the year, students who participate in service-learning projects along with their peers in Student Voice Committee will convene to reflect on the projects they developed and share how they can leverage the skills and knowledge they have gained to support their communities in the future.