Facilitated reflective practice sessions with 8 MA summer programs that integrated social emotional learning and service-learning into their work with students. Such a pleasure to hear the great projects their students implemented and all the summer learning that happened! Grantees were: Boston Area Health Education Commission, Berkshire Hills School District, Brockton School District, East End House, Girl Scouts of Eastern MA, Groundwork Lawrence, Mothers for Justice and Equality and Tewksbury Public Schools.
Kids want to use science to change their world
By Erik Ketcherside
“Children today are aware of many environmental problems in their communities,” says Merritt, assistant professor in elementary sustainability education at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “They can make connections between the concepts they learn in class and the world around them, and they would like to help work toward solutions. But they have few opportunities at school to learn the skills and knowledge they need to solve real-world problems.”
Service-learning is deep learning
Merritt is part of the team behind “Improving Teacher Capacity to Implement High Quality Service-Learning in Elementary Science Classrooms,” a research project currently running in a large urban U.S. school district. (Institutional Review Board guidelines require the identity of the district to be kept confidential.) Other team members are Sara Rimm-Kaufman at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Tracy Harkins of Harkins Consulting. It was Harkins’ work that provided the building blocks of the project.
“This idea emanated from a consultation with this wonderful woman, Tracy Harkins, who leads professional development for teachers around service-learning,” Merritt says. (Service-learning links academic curriculum with service through community partners. ASU has a universitywide commitment to service-learning.)
Tracy has this great passion for getting kids involved in solving community problems. They want to have a voice. They care. So let’s give them the tools they need and help them see they can make a difference. Tracy’s work with teachers inspired us to try to scale it up and add some structure and see what teachers and students think.”
Merritt and her research partners adapted some of Harkins’ existing service-learning materials into a curriculum for students, accompanied by professional development for their teachers, called Connect Science. Nicole Bowers, an MLFTC doctoral student, helped develop science lessons for the project.
The 30 lessons created for the 2016–17 school year included a unit that helped fourth-grade students understand how their use of electricity and gasoline affects the environment. That section introduces students to problems related to energy and then invites them to decide as a class on a solution or a strategy they want to try. Merritt points to one class that wanted to teach people why they should buy local foods.
“They made a little public service video to communicate the message that, when you buy local, food doesn’t have to travel a great distance on a truck and use all those food miles,” she says. “Each class is thinking of a way to own the problem of energy use and running out of natural resources, and then providing a solution.”
Learning science through service
The science aspects of the curriculum are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, a teaching framework developed by the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. And while the purpose of the project is to improve science education, Merritt says making that science engaging through service-learning requires skills beyond science-based problem-solving.
“We’re trying to teach them civics skills they need to feel they can actually make a difference,” she says, “so they can contribute to the world in a positive way.” That’s why the curriculum incorporates lessons in social and emotional learning that prepare students to debate and collaborate with peers.
“We call them collaborative skills,” Merritt says. “Students learn about listening to others and working in groups; about civic engagement and how to work together to create a meaningful project that helps the community. Teachers are provided with tools and examples for preparing their students to apply what they learn in the classroom to relevant community projects.” Rimm-Kaufman, an expert on social and emotional learning skills, leads curriculum development in this area. Merritt calls it a blended program, with some social studies and some science components.
And she says students seem to enjoy the blend. Though data are still being collected and analyzed from the first year of the project, Merritt says anecdotal responses have been positive. “A lot of kids have been saying they like Connect Science,” she says, “that they find it engaging and they like solving real problems.”
The positive reaction is shared by their teachers, for the same and for broader reasons. “Teachers like the idea of letting their students do real-world science,” Merritt says, “things that are connected to kids’ lives. And the teachers are curious themselves about energy, where we get electricity and what are the sources.
“But they’re enthusiastic about both the science and collaborative skills lessons,” she adds. “They know it’s not easy to foster group discussions about controversial topics or to decide on a project together with everybody’s voice heard. They like that we have lessons on multiple perspectives: Listen to somebody else’s ideas, be open to them and not just move forward with your own agenda.”
Science teachers nationwide will soon be able to share that enthusiasm. Merritt’s project is funded through June. After data collection is completed this year, her team will finalize curriculum materials, many of which will be available on the web to teachers free of charge. School districts looking for institutional professional development resources can benefit from the project’s results through Harkins Consulting. The final research findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals.
March 12, 2018: National Service-Learning Conference , St. Paul MN
- So You Need to Teach Other Adults What Service-Learning is….. in less than an hour?”
- “Connect Science: An Integrative Approach to Social Emotional Learning, Science, and Service Learning”
March 21. 2018: Facilitating Social Emotional Learning and Service-Learning, HIlton Garden Inn, Devens, MA
March 22-23, 2018:Facilitating a 2-Day Plan and Implement Service-Learning Workshop, Devens Conference Center, MA
March 28-29, 2018: Facilitating a 2-Day Plan and Implement Service-Learning Workshop,Hilton Garden Inn, Devens, MA
June 5-6, 2018: Facilitating a 2-Day Plan and Implement Service-Learning Workshop, Double Tree, Leominster, MA
June 27-28, 2018: Facilitating a 2-Day Plan and Implement Service-Learning Workshop, Hilton Garden, Devens MA
Reflection with Tennessee teachers who implemented our ( in partnership with The University of Virginia) service-learning curriculum with 4th grade students focused on energy and social and emotional learning.
Showcasing of high quality project based learning. Many KIDS model service-learning project will be presented.
About the Workshop: This session will introduce participants to the concepts of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and help participants think about what SEL is and how/why it is important to teach these skills to students when expecting them to collaborate during a project or group setting, when in the classroom, during out of school time, or other types of youth development or program settings.
This session will be facilitated by Tracy Harkins, Harkins Consulting . May 2nd, 2017 – Social Emotional Learning in Service-Learning and Other Project Based Learning Workshop for the MA Service Alliance (This workshop is full)
May 9-10th, 2017: Harkins Consulting and Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance will be facilitating a 2 Day STEM/Service-Learning Workshop – HIlton Garden Inn, Devens, MA
May 23-24th, 2017: Facilitating a 2-Day Plan and Implement Service-Learning Workshop, Double Tree, Leominster, MA
June 13-16th, 2017: Piloting new Connect Science Curriculum with 40 teachers from Nashville Metro Public Schools