Experiential Learning and School/Community Connections
Project Based Learning can help teachers extend the classroom beyond the school walls. Frequently, projects can be extended to engage the internal and external school community. These projects can help provide partnerships that allow students the opportunity to work pro-actively with community partners.
Often these projects evolve based upon student research and interest, as well as the needs and interest within the community. Throughout the process, students can reflect on their work and experiences in both formal and informal ways.
Creating opportunities for students to work with community members can help to build their confidence, as well as their understanding of their important place within the school and community. These experiences can often be tied to service learning. “Research has shown that when schools implement high-quality service learning programs, students become more actively engaged in schoolwork, improve their academic skills, and become more likely to volunteer throughout their lives. Students are also more likely to develop personal and social skills such as conflict management, respect for diversity, empathy, and social responsibility. In addition, schools benefit by forming important partnerships with community agencies, and communities benefit by having their needs directly met “ (Billig, 2009; Furco & Root, 2010).
Defined STEM has many projects that can be done with local, outside experts to create meaningful applications of experiential learning. These community members can help provide insight and participate in the design and evaluation process. Their knowledge and skills may be beneficial in helping to reiterate the wants and needs of an audience and how the design addresses these needs through evaluation. The following performance tasks are just some examples of projects that can be connected with the community. These tasks strongly encourage this engagement.
- A Sister City (Grade 2)
- Weather Reporter: Reducing the Impact of Severe Weather (Grade 3)
- Arborist: Urban Tree Canopy (Grade 5)
- Rain Barrel Manufacturer (Grade 7)
- Tot Lot: Designing a Playground with Mathematical Principles (Grade 7)
- Environmental Club: Sustainability (Grade 8)
- Research Consultant: Sampling (Grade 6)
Billig, S. H. (2009). Does quality really matter? Testing the new K–12 service-learning standards for quality practice. In B. E. Moely, S. H. Billig, & B. A. Holland (Eds.), Advances in service-learning research: Vol. 9. Creating our identities in service-learning and community engagement (pp. 131–157). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
Furco, A., & Root, S. (2010). Research demonstrates the value of service learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(5), 16–20.