Service Learning in East Freshman English

Service Learning Project Gives East Freshman English Classes Sense of Purpose
Posted on 12/16/2019
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Service learning features two photos from East Freshman English classes, both of which participated in a lesson that doubled as a community service activityTwo different English classes at Lakota East Freshman learned as much about their community this past quarter as they did about reading, writing, researching and presenting. 


English teacher Amy Mahaffey’s “Reading Workshop” class used this excerpt to drive discussion about “Tuesdays with Morrie,” a novel they read together as a class. “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” 


Mahaffey took the discussion a step further, challenging her class to use those words as inspiration for a community service project. While the class filled the board with countless local non-profits they had researched, they ultimately agreed to focus their energy on the residents at Chesterwood Village retirement community. They went to work on collecting games, puzzles, coloring books and other activities to create activity baskets. 


“I like knowing that what we did will put a smile on people’s faces who don’t always have a lot of visitors,” said freshman Chase St. John, sharing that the class landed on the project because of how the novel opened their eyes to the struggles of the elderly community. 


This kind of spin on a lesson is not new to Mahaffey. In fact, she and her English team at East Freshman regularly use project based learning (PBL) in their classrooms. PBL simply gives students a platform through which they can apply what they’ve learned to a real world problem or scenario. The element of student choice makes it an effective form of personalized learning, a big focus across all grades and subjects levels at Lakota this year. 


“I have a deep passion for community service and I guess I wanted to pass it on to my students,” said Mahaffey, who tasked her honors English classes with researching one or more local causes and then giving at least five hours of their time to serve them in some way. In the end, they had to put their presentation skills to the test by sharing their experience with their classmates. 


“For many of them, it’s their first time serving in their community and their eyes are opened,” she said. “They see that they can still serve and make a difference as young people.” 


Freshman Marissa Forster was surprised by the amount of volunteers that consistently came out to support the organization she chose to serve, Matthew 25 Ministries, while her classmate, Andie Madding, was overwhelmed by how many opportunities there are to serve. 


Another student, Lydia Smith, used the project as an opportunity to explore a possible career in education, helping a teacher at Independence Elementary, where she attended.


Mahaffey is looking forward to the next phase of her project, when students will get a chance to persuade their classmates to choose their organization as the recipient of a $1,000 grant through Magnified Giving, a local non-profit dedicated to engaging students in philanthropy.