Passion and Knowledge in Henry County Schools

From Marcus Penny, Web Communications Manager at NYLC.

The other week I flew to Atlanta, GA, and headed down the road 25 miles to Henry County, where NYLC is entering its second year in partnership with Henry County Schools. This was my second trip to the district; I’ve gone before to capture on video the process as we work together to implement service-learning in Henry County classrooms. You can see highlights from my last trip below.

This week was devoted to supporting teachers through service-learning training.

I had a very different experience from my first visit last winter. The teachers who months before had been heading into uncertain terrain already felt a stronger sense of ownership and confidence when it came to the service-learning process. On what was essentially day one of year two, they were light-years ahead of where they had been the previous summer. With small successes under their belts from the past school year, they had sights set high for the next.

In the middle of the week, students took a break from summer vacation to join their teachers on a service-learning journey. This particular crop of students was new to service-learning, unlike most of the teachers they paired with. But it didn’t matter. With initial guidance from teachers and NYLC staff, the students quickly took charge of the day, unpacking academic standards, identifying quality practice, and simulating – in a day, mind you – a real service-learning project from start to finish.

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It took no time at all for the student participants to realize the fault in a service-learning simulation: it’s just a simulation. For service-learning to be effective, the service has to be meaningful; it has to be based on a genuine community need, identified by the students themselves. In talking to students, it was clear they’d enjoyed their time. In fact, they were surprised at the fun they’d had on a day off from summer. But they were already thirsty for more.

If service-learning is going to be successful, it requires student buy-in. It requires passion. It’s clear that Henry County Schools is in no way lacking passionate young leaders and experienced teachers to guide and collaborate with them. Here’s to another great year in service-learning.