Taking on a service-learning project on a topic as broad as littering could pose a challenge to any teacher. Following the principles of the My Voice framework, first-year My Voice Teacher Network member Lisa Hantman looked to her 3rd grade students for guidance. After meeting with several community partners, the class decided to create a symposium about the hazards of littering for their schoolmates and other Center City elementary school students.
But how would they determine what motivated people to litter? Again, Lisa turned to the students for help. The class suggested they survey people in nearby Washington Square Park about their littering habits. “They wanted to do it from the very beginning,” Lisa says. “We couldn’t understand why people would litter in the first place. The park was an obvious and safe place to find that out.”
Lisa worked hard to prepare her students to conduct the survey. “I asked them, ‘If you want to find out information from people, how would you do that?’ We talked about what it means to talk to people on their lunch breaks, and also about safety issues. We talked about being a social scientist and how to approach people to encourage them to be truthful.”
“Almost everything we did [with the project] was connected to the core curriculum,” Lisa reports. The survey gave the class an opportunity to learn how to gather information and graph the results in a real world context. But the students’ gains were more than just academic. “I’m most proud of the way all my students, even if they’re very shy, were willing to become part of the project in some way or other.”
Lisa is proud of her role in the project as well. “I look at the footage [of our symposium] and I say, ‘I want to be like that teacher.’ And then I realize that I am her.”