ACPS’ 2019-20 CivicTREK cohort convened remotely on April 29th for a community-building Social Hour of sharing their efforts with project-based service-learning despite the unexpected interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teachers began with a brief personal check-in psychology activity, What Blob are You? noting how they were each handling the transition to remote learning. In small breakout groups, they were then asked to share their reflections on best practices in “pandemic pedagogy”. What were they doing to care for students? How were they creating opportunities for projects and enrichment? And how, in such challenging circumstances, were they setting realistic expectations – for themselves, as well as for their students?
At the time that school recessed, most of the CivicTREK classes were well into the development of their programs. Students had established leadership teams, identified project issues to investigate, written and administered surveys of their peers, and begun to organize action steps. Teachers reported that many students had been looking forward to the project, and were feeling cheated – and teachers have been responding. For example:
- The leadership academy is continuing, and will soon select from among a menu of virtual project choices.
- Students are still communicating and sharing their ideas by writing blogs.
- A home outdoor garden will work, as one class had been focusing on developing an outdoor learning environment at school.
For further inspiration, the CivicTREK program coordinators shared a series of collected resources with teachers. Volunteer Alexandria has launched Breaks with Impact, an opportunity for students to connect virtually with community partners and complete a short service activity. Together When Apart is a web introduction to distance learning investigations that connect to community. A compilation of thirty Remote Learning Sample CivicTREK Projects provided a rich variety of ideas across the content and grade-level spectrum. Returning again to small breakout groups, teachers were given time to review these opportunities, and share their thoughts on those that resonated. Some examples:
- Students can draw pictures and write notes to connect with senior citizens – especially important during these days of isolation.
- With everyone at home, water usage is way up; students can investigate and create a booklet to share about water conservation.
- Food insecurity is increasing; projects about reducing food waste, and helping out food drives can be important.
Teachers were presented with a look ahead to next year’s CivicTREK program. Would they be interested in finishing out their efforts by continuing in the program next year? One after another, they responded with an enthusiastic, “yes!”, and began to explain what they would like to do in the fall.
The hour concluded with plans for a modified online showcase of CivicTREK work done this year. While it is hard to predict what the next month will bring, we know we want to celebrate the excellent ideas, energy and passion of our CivicTREK students and teachers.