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The Learning Curve
Is It the Role of the Schools to Teach Community Service With Curriculum?
Should community service be a subject we teach students, right alongside reading and mathematics? This is a question posed by many educators as they grapple with the issue of teaching students a broader sense of responsibility.
Some schools have responded by creating community service requirements for graduation. The thought is that if everyone has to experience the rewards of serving others before getting a high school diploma, this will enhance the chances of service becoming a lifelong habit. Others counter that by making service a required course, it could take on the same “appeal” as four years of physical education – in other words, initiate the “I don’t ever have to do that again!” response.
There are two questions at issue here. First, does community service play a useful role in developing a “better” student and future citizen? And, second, if the answer is in the affirmative, how do schools “teach” community service to their students?
In addition to the obvious benefit of developing concerned and giving citizens, many colleges see community service as a valid indicator of performance and character.
Businesses, too, emphasize service as witnessed by student awards such as Prudential’s “Spirit of the Community Award,” which recognizes student achievement in community.
But is it a school’s responsibility to educate students about their responsibilities to “others?” Isn’t this really within the purview of the family and church? Does it fit in a school program, not to mention a curriculum? How can a student be “taught” to have a sense of responsibility for others?
Teaching as I do in a faithbased community does add another dimension to decisions about service projects. But I would argue that exposing children to projects and programs in which they learn to be more responsible individuals only adds to
their personal sense of worth. To create a community service program that works requires support from the larger community — the school board, the board of trustees and the administrators. If that support is missing, no matter how talented a coordinator is, the students will know that the real support is only for SAT scores or the volleyball team.
Here at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, children as young as kindergarten decorate lunch bags and help pack lunches for Bridges runs to help feed the homeless. For many years, sixth graders have been making monthly trips to the Morris Shelter where they cook dinner for the residents. Fundraisers are held regularly to support other Holy Child schools both in Africa and in lower Manhattan.
Older students have more opportunities for facetoface interaction in their service projects. Students who engage homeless women and children in conversation during Bridges runs are learning firsthand the heartbreak of being burned out of one’s home and having nowhere to live but a shelter. And students who work at Habitat sites see upclose the difference having a home can make to a family struggling with poverty.
Painting lines on a basketball court in a Newark city park teaches students how working together can be a positive experience, even if their favorite part is shooting hoops with the neighborhood children afterwards and getting covered in yellow paint.
Our program is not a requirement. Our school decided to encourage participation in community service, but not to require it. Our reasoning is that we strive to graduate students who are as aware of the needs of others and their responsibilities to these needs as they are aware of everything else in the larger world they’re entering.
Any educator will attest to the fact that a student who feels confident about herself in one area is a more assured learner in others. So, in addition to its altruistic effects, community service serves a pedagogical role for students. And it can certainly be an interdisciplinary model as well, as planning a fund raiser incorporates at least math, language arts and social studies skills.
What are the longrange effects? Many Oak Knoll graduates participate in community service projects at their colleges, and after college a number of them have joined programs such as the Peace Corps and Jesuit Volunteers.
We like to believe that by starting young, our students learn that serving others is just what people do.
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Mary Joan Murphy has taught theology at Oak Knoll School’s Upper School for the past five years and was religion coordinator in the Lower School for the five previous years. She also is moderator of Oak Knoll’s Black Scholars organization.
A resident of South Orange, Mrs. Murphy has four daughters and is a trustee of the Maplewood/ South Orange Community Coalition on Race. Mrs. Murphy has a degree in English from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and a master’s in theology from Seton Hall University.
Westfield Review, Inc. Sets SAT Preparation Courses
WESTFIELD – Les Jacobson, Director of Westfield Review, Inc. and mathematics instructor from Westfield High School, has announced the Spring 2000 SAT preparation schedule.
The program will commence in February with three different starting dates. Classes will meet either on Wednesdays, beginning on February 16, or Thursdays, beginning February 17, or Sundays, starting on February 13.
These sections all consist of 24 hours of total instruction in both verbal and math given over eight different sessions meeting for three hours per session.
The cost of the program is $359, which includes a textbook, “10 Real SAT’s.” The program is designed for high school juniors to prepare them for the April, May and June SAT
tests. Westfield Review, Inc. offers a comprehensive SAT and PSAT program that emphasizes the strategies and techniques needed for SAT success. Each class is taught by certified and experienced teachers in their subject area and currently teaching at Westfield High School.
Instruction techniques vary from class lecture to individual work to small group to student interaction. Pupils practice their techniques on actual SAT exams that are published by the College Board who creates the SATs.
Classes are small and seats are limited. All classes meet at The Presbyterian Church in Westfield and are limited in space.
To reserve a spot or to receive further information and a registration form, please call (908) 3172774.
LEARNING THEIR RIGHTS… Justice James H. Coleman, Jr., the first AfricanAmerican to serve in New Jersey’s Supreme Court, recently spoke to the fifth grade girls at Kent Place School in Summit about constitutional law, a subject they have been studying in their social studies classes. In addition to discussing the characteristics of today’s State and Federal Supreme Courts, Justice Coleman also spoke about the Constitution and the Amendments which ultimately guaranteed AfricanAmericans and women the same constitutional rights granted to men. Also pictured is fifth grade teacher Kate Swanson, who is holding a diagram of the New Jersey Court System.
ON WITH THE SHOW, THIS IS IT… After spending the entire month of January tirelessly directly, producing, rehearsing, singing, dancing, painting, sewing and selling, the parents of Washington Elementary School students are ready to unveil their 52 nd annual musical comedy, On With the Show. Performances will be held this weekend at Roosevelt Intermediate School on Friday, February 4, at 8 p. m. and Saturday, February 5, at 2 and 8 p. m. Tickets, which are $6 for the afternoon performance and $8 for the evening performance, may be purchased by calling the Virtual Box Office at (908) 3172775 or through Burgdorff ERA Realtors at 600 North Avenue, Westfield. Tickets will be sold on a reserved basis only. The production is the school’s primary fundraiser. Pictured, left to right, are members of the cast, Rob Swadosh, Jackie Costello, and Scott Lazar.
It is the K4, 58 option which raised the ire of Coles Elementary School parents from the neighborhoods of Greensview Drive, Rahway Road, Winchester Drive, Jacobs Lane, Ravenswood, and Swans Mill Road on the south side of Scotch Plains.
In addition to moving fifthgrade students, the K4, 58 option calls for redistricting 56 students from Coles to School One. Students from the above area, who are presently bused to Coles, are being considered for that move.
They are only one of several pockets of students in Scotch Plains and Fanwood which have been identified as moveable. The K4, 58 proposal also suggests moving 21 students from Evergreen Elementary to Coles to maintain the racial balance of the schools.
Each of the five options on the table calls for some redistricting of students. According to the facilities and enrollment report, redistricting guidelines that factored into the proposed options suggest the following:
· Use major roads and municipal boundaries to define discreet neighborhoods wherever possible.
· Avoid or minimize crossing North and South Avenues.
· Minimize additional transportation costs by sending currently bussed students to different destinations.
· Greensview Drive resident John Maxwell and many others spoke out against the length of time their children could be on the bus to and from School One, which is located on Willow Avenue between Midway and East Second Street.
“Our children would have to endure an unreasonable commute from one side (of town) to another,” said Mr. Maxwell. Parents said they “clocked” the bus ride at 45 minutes each way.
“It cuts into valuable homework time,” declared Jane Berlant of Winchester Drive. “It could prohibit attendance at Hebrew or CCD classes. How will they get together with other students, new friends?”
Other parents, like Don Keenan of Rahway Road, announced they bought their homes where they did just so their children could attend Coles School.
“It’s a question of common sense,” stated Mr. Keenan, whose family only recently moved to Scotch Plains from Fanwood. “Taking (children) from the furthest spot in town... it’s not fair. I want my children in their neighborhood.”
Just two residents questioned the wisdom of moving the fifth graders into the middle school.
Fanwood resident Liz Meara said, “Just because they can swim academically doesn’t mean we should throw them into the ocean of middle school and watch them sink.”
Another Fanwood resident spoke to the special opportunities that fifth graders currently have to be leaders at the elementary level. She wondered if they would have similar opportunities if they move to middle school.
Board members Thomas Russo and Jean McAllister both addressed certain comments that the facilities’ problem is news to many people in the township.
“People have said, ‘why are you rushing this decision? ’” stated Mr. Russo. “The facilities task force dates back to 1998.”
“If these meetings don’t get any bigger, all information will be gotten secondhand,” declared Mrs. McAllister, who pointed to TV 34 and The Times as additional sources of information.
She urged people to call board members personally or to visit the district Website at http:// www. njcommunity. org/ spfnet/.
“There are ways to get in touch with us and find out about this,”
said Mrs. McAllister. Board member Richard Meade spoke to the parents who protested the movement of their children.
“No matter what we do, people somewhere will be angry,” he said. “This affects all of us. We don’t know exactly who until the decision is made.”
The suggestion from board member August Ruggiero that “the question of a 45minute commute should be looked at and reduced” met with applause. “Can the route be changed?” he asked. “Can different neighborhoods be looked at?”
Board Member Jessica Simpson responded to the suggestion from parents that the board add onto Coles, already the largest elementary school.
“That worries me.... an elementary school of 650700 children,” she said. “It’s not really good for the kids. Coles and McGinn are so much bigger. It’s not equitable.”
Mrs. Simpson noted that “even the state” supports the idea of smaller elementary schools.
In the administration’s facilities report, each option is evaluated as a longterm solution; for its flexibility to accommodate program expansion or unforeseen needs; for costs association with construction, staffing and transportation; for redistricting implications; impact on special education programs; racial balance; and ability to deliver programs equitably.
A complete summary of the facilities report is available from the board offices at Evergreen Avenue and Cedar Street. The final scheduled facilities’ presentation will take place at School One this Monday, February 7, at 7: 30 p. m.
After that, the five options will be narrowed to one when Dr. Choye makes her recommendation to the board on Thursday, February 10. The board is scheduled to vote on the facilities’ matter at its Monday, February 28 meeting.
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Parents Protest Redistricting Plans During Board Meeting
tary population. Move all fifth grade students into Terrill and Park Middle Schools. Construct 12 classrooms and multipurpose room at Terrill, and expanding Terrill parking facilities at estimated cost of $3.9 million. Additional staffing costs are estimated at $125 thousand annually. After one year, one additional bus route would be required at a cost of $20 thousand per year.
5. Reorganize to K6, 78. Redistrict 17 percent of elementary students. Bring sixth grade students back to the elementary schools, convert Terrill to a sixth elementary school and house all seventh and eighth graders at Park. Construction projects would include reclaiming
Facilities, Redistricting Options Told by Officials
classroom space at Evergreen; creating Kindergarten classrooms at Terrill; renovating science and computer labs at Park; and making Park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. Administrative offices would be relocated. Anticipated construction costs are $4.2 million (does not include land costs).
Additional staffing is expected to cost $330,000 annually. Additional transportation would cost $60,000 per year. Please send all Concept & Thought
Press Releases to: michelle@ goleader. com
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Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)