Dear Colleagues:

NMRSD has received a grant to support the expansion of Community Service Learning (CSL) in the district. The grant requires that we establish a Community Service Learning Steering Committee composed of teachers, students, and community members. Our first organizational meeting will be on December 15th from 3:00-3:45 at the high school. The committee's charge will be to support partnerships between the schools and the community through CSL experiences. We wrote this grant to provide support district teachers and students to engage in CSL opportunities from pK to grade 12.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the steering committee, please email or call me. If you know community members who would be interested, please send them this email.

With monies from the grant, we will offer a graduate level course in CSL in the spring for teachers pK to 12. The course will have "hands on" opportunities for teachers to visit local CSL sites, to research CSL possibilities, and to develop local opportunities in CSL for their classrooms. We will provide you with the details and dates early in 2010.

CSL is often misunderstood as a club activity or as fund raising. It is neither. CSL connects the schools to the community. CSL is not an "add on," but makes a real world connection between the classroom and students. It can include:

· Students and teachers studying and working to improve a community problem or social issue
· Students and teachers helping town leaders or community agencies with gathering and analyzing information, or with educating the community on a pressing issue
· Helping people directly while practicing/improving skills
· Cross-age tutoring or teaching
· Examining "Community" as a concept, answering the question "What constitutes a healthy community and what kind of community do we want to live in?"
· Teacher teams developing interdisciplinary or integrated curricula around a central problem, question or theme
· Students using vocational and technical skills to help community residents or agencies in need

As I wrote the grant for the district, I had the opportunity to interview students who have traveled to New Orleans with Mr. Kane and other NMRSD staff. The students said that the experiences had profoundly changed their view of the world, their lives, and their local community.

If you need further clarification about the goals of CSL, you can visit the DESE web site at http://www.doe.mass.edu/csl/whatis.html?section=1. Essentially, Community Service-Learning must:
· Be embedded in the curriculum, or must serve as the basis for curriculum development;
· Be designed with a balance of time spent in the classroom studying the issues and in the field addressing or presenting findings on the issues;
· Involve students in service experiences;
· Be based in student interests and must build on student questions, concerns, observations, and feedback; and
· Have clearly defined service outcomes and must engage students in real problem-solving or long-term relationship building;
· Include an opportunity for reflection where students can further enhance learning and deepen curriculum connections, as well as process emotions and ideas that arise through service.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope we see you at the steering committee meetings or enrolled in the course.