Not every student in this 6th grade class at James Logan Elementary School favored obesity as the focus for their service-learning project. And ultimately, getting buy-in from all students, even those who may have initially voted for another issue, is important to a project’s success.
So 1st year Teacher Network member Alexis Fallen has been pleasantly surprised as she has watched her entire class become excited by the project. The students have identified their essential question (How can we help our school community make better nutrition and exercise choices to prevent obesity?) and are currently conducting research to learn more about the causes and effects of obesity.
In carrying out their research, Alexis asks individual students to read specific articles and to then summarize the information for the rest of the students. “I tell them they can teach the class, which they love,” she says. As a teacher, the project has helped her accomplish more in the classroom, with her students assuming greater responsibility for their own learning. One student even surprised Ms. Fallen one morning when, out of the blue, he presented her with an entire page detailing research he had done on obesity. “It’s important to know there was nothing relating to our project assigned for homework.” What better indication of student interest could you ask for than this?
Alexis has also noticed there has been an impact in other areas. “The children are now helping each other with their math work – something that did not happen before. I definitely think this is a spillover from the way we are working together on the service-learning project.”
When her student handed her work he had done simply because he was motivated to learn about the causes and implications associated with obesity, Alexis said, “It reminded me of why I am a teacher.” Nutrition concerns aside for the moment, winning the My Voice award was simply the icing on the cake.