Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Monitoring
For the past 18 years, seventh grade students in Calvert County have been assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (U.S.F.W.S.) and the Virginia Institute for Marine Sciences in a bay-wide study of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). These underwater grasses play a critical role in the health of the bay as a filter for nutrients and sediment which can be detrimental to the health of the environment.
Students complete a variety of projects at Windy Hill Elementary. Projects vary from grade to grade. In social studies and science classes, teachers discuss ways in which students can be responsible for helping out in the community.
Our service-learning projects are linked to our school-wide character education program. Students learn about a different character trait each month. The meaning and examples of each trait are discussed during an assembly and back in the classrooms. Every teacher also picks a student each month that frequently demonstrate the featured trait in their classroom. The child's picture is taken and displaced on a bulletin board.
In December 2006, we emphasized the trait of Caring. As a school, we carried out a food drive to help a family in need for the holiday and demonstrated the trait of caring.
In January 2007, the featured traits we focused on were Justice and Fairness and we planned service-learning projects connected to these traits by:
- raising money for the American Heart Association,
- collecting items for Echo House, an emergency shelter in Calvert County,
- and creating t-shirts and friendship bracelets for children in John Hopkins Children's Center as part of Caring means Sharing.
Quilts for Calvert Hospice
Students in a Family Consumer Science class created quilts to be sold as part of a fundraising activity for a local hospice.
20 8th grade math students planted a buttefly garden in the school courtyard. The students found the area of the courtyard and created scale drawings to indicate where to plant the plants. We were aiming to beautify the school grounds.
In this service-learning activity, students and the teacher were involved in an aluminum can recycling drive. The first period classes held a contest in which the class that brought in the most cans by weight won a juice and doughnut party to recognize and celebrate their success.
The most memorable experience I have had engaging my students in service-learning was accompanying them on the CHESPAX canoe trip. This trip allows the students to collect data in hands-on activities that is later analyzed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Students record types of submerged aquatic vegetation present in a local creek, as well as the wildlife species found in the area. This activity provides CHESPAX and the U.S.F.W.S. with valuable information to help work towards solutions to help save the Chesapeake Bay. Prior to the trip, students partake in activities that provide them with the knowledge necessary to effectively understand this service. In addition to the collaborative efforts of teachers, CHESPAX, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I designed a preparation and reflection activity to further enhance their knowledge. This activity allowed me to incorporate service-learning into a math graphing unit. Having the same students for math and science further enhanced the effectiveness of this task. After the trip, students are engaged in a number of reflection activities. One activity requires them to analyze their data and write a letter reporting their results to the U.S.F.W.S. The organization utilizes this information to determine the overall health of the bay. The U.S.F.W.S. writes letters in response to the students' findings thanking them for the valuable service they provided. The look of pride on the students' faces was priceless. Teaching children with special needs can, at times, be difficult and always challenging. Through this program, I have seen students so enthusiastic and engaged. Their response further validates the need for such service-oriented, hands-on experiences.
My team serves all organizations under the umbrella of the United Way. Activities vary from teacher to teacher and class to class. Students are responsible for identifying a community need and a planning for its resolve. Students brainstorm, discuss, evaluate, contact, and implement the plan. Assessment and reflection is continual and reevaluated often.
We introduce students to service-learning through a variety of projects. We have been reducing solid-waste to prolong the life of our landfill and began a school beautification project.
I am the service-learning coordinator for students at my school. I help students create an action plan and select service-learning projects on which to work.
Students in the Northern High School Key Club serve the community in a variety of ways from acting as student aides at the elementary school to establishing and sponsoring service clubs a two of the county's middle schools. The Key Club is the primary vehicle for transfer students to Northern to meet their service-learning graduation requirement.
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