“How come we gotta learn this?” kids often ask of teachers in school. At Compass School in Westminster, Vermont, students get to apply their learning to real world needs during Community Service Winter Term.
For six days in early March as students are asked to apply their academic learning to help address real community needs. Compass’ Community Service Winter Term is organized around requests for assistance from community organizations in the region. As students address these real world needs, they develop and extend “21st Century skills" such problem solving, adaptability, and the ability to work with others to make a real difference in the community.
This year’s projects include developing a video site and content for the Coalition of Essential Schools, developing science exhibits to engage teens for the Nature Museum at Grafton, storytelling in local elementary schools, helping rebuilding projects for the Green Island Project in Bellows Falls and exploring with Our Place how to connect the community to more healthy, locally grown food.
Working in small groups with a teacher-coach, students meet with the community partner sponsoring the project, clarify expectations, and organize themselves to help address the community need. This work asks students to take knowledge and skills developed in their classes and apply it to real world problems. As research on learning shows, this transfer of academic learning to new situations is one of the great challenges in education. Winter term at Compass gives students the chance to work together to apply their learning outside school in service to the community.