Community Service. Oxford Dictionary defines community service as “voluntary work intended to help people in a particular area.”
It was with these definitions in mind that we defined the Community Service curriculum, which broadened how one usually thinks of community service. Being a new school we’re building a community from the beginning. This community is made up of our students, our faculty and our students’ families, and before we can begin to impact our broader community, we have to build our own community.
The learning objectives for Community Service are three-fold:
- Learn to be a contributing member of the Ideaventions Academy community
- Learn that we are part of a broader local community, national community and global community
- Gain exposure to skills necessary to impact one of the communities to which we belong
Ideaventions Academy Community
We will spend the first two months of the school year focused on laying the foundation for the Ideaventions Academy community. After the initial two months, each Community Service class will include a lesson in how to be a member of our school community.
We are very excited that our inaugural class of students will have the opportunity to shape the Academy through the creation of our Honor Code. Students and faculty will work together to learn about ideals, honor, integrity, and trust, then using this knowledge, draft a code that will withstand the test of time and that we can abide by as a community.
By the end of the first two months, students and faculty will know and understand the expectations of being a contributing member of this amazing community. Our community’s expectations on compassion, respect, bullying, acceptance, friendships, honesty, and choices will be worked and defined by students and faculty to lay the foundation for the rest of the year.
After the initial two months, we will lead short, 20-minute lessons on more nuanced skills that reinforce the work done. Topics of these lessons will range from understanding stress and anxiety within oneself, to sharing, be it a lab tool or credit in a scientific publication, to how to handle exclusion in a group. The spectrum of topics covered will create the glue for this tight-knit community.
Once we have defined what it means to be part of the Ideaventions Academy community, we can then venture out to begin to impact the broader community. The broader community can be our local Reston community, our state, our country or our global community. The possibilities are endless. Through this work, we’ll always look at the geographic area that we’re influencing and the communities that we hope to help.
An aspect of the curriculum is to introduce students to the wide range and scale of causes, which include pollution, animals, poverty, and natural disasters. As part of the selection of a service project and background research, students will learn about the various social causes and gain an appreciation for the diversity of communities.
This is the area of the curriculum that most people think of when one mentions Community Service. Our goal is to teach students the skills that they need to make an impact. Many of these skills are transferrable to entrepreneurship and other professional communities like the scientific community.
As students may be working in a class of eight to ten students, it is not feasible to run eight to ten separate community service projects. Instead, we’ll be using a framework that mirrors the “real world.” We want students to feel empowered and to have choices. Therefore, we will not be dictating the project that they will undertake.
Every student in the class will draft a proposal for the project of their choice. Students will create rating criteria that will be used. Each student will then blind-rate all of the other project proposals based on the agreed-upon criteria. One or two project proposals from the class will be selected as the class project(s) for the year. By being active participants in this multi-step process, students commit to the choice for the class and learn how to evaluate potential work, as well as their own. The method for choosing the project(s) mirrors the grant process for a non-profit, the funding process for a research project or the venture capital process in a start up.
The next phase is project execution or implementation. In addition to actually doing the project, in this phase of the project, we learn about planning, marketing, funding or fundraising, goals, project roles, unintended consequences, and documentation.
Finally, we either complete the project or we decide to sustain the project into the future.
In conclusion, from this curriculum and experience, we believe that students:
- will learn effective social and entrepreneurship skills,
- will create a school community that they look forward to being a part of everyday,
- will understand and appreciate the work necessary to make a positive impact on an important, but often ambiguous, undefined community issue and
- will experience the satisfaction of helping others.