Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Experiencing the Community

Seldom does a person go to work and simply do math all day.  The same is true for reading and writing and speaking as well as other subject areas.  When schools separate these subject areas they are only doing half of their job.  The generalization of information gives education as well as the individual skills developed, meaning and relevance.  What better way to develop the whole child than to take learning into the community.

Chosen by students, business and industry can make a valuable lesson not only for the subject matter involved but for the chance to explore a potential job situation.  So many students fail and are pushed into the streets because of a lack of passion for their future.  With community experiences, the student can develop that passion by visiting actual job situations allowing them to expand their minds and interests.

Objectives of a community experience:
Ø To give students the opportunity to learn outside the school building
Ø To encourage students to accept learning as a global experience
Ø To introduce students to jobs, careers, projects, activities, and news that is happening in the community
Ø To incorporate academics into every day experiences to make it real.

To begin, students must be fully involved in the planning of the community experience.  It is their interests that must be explored and their horizons that must be broadened.  To arrange for the visit, the student takes the lead by calling the worksite and making the proper preparations.  The student becomes the contact be it a visit to a local factory or the mayor, governor or president.  The students as a group make a decision based on a consensus.

Next, prepare the students for the trip by teaching the social skills necessary and appropriate for the specific visit.  How would they respond in a businesslike manner in a specific company? 

To accomplish this we must teach academic skills pertinent to the experience.  If mathematics is used frequently on the job, make that the fundamental academic area covered with the lessons relating to the specific jobs students will be seeing.
Have students do research on the specific jobs they will be visiting.  Here we build reading, writing and speaking into the activity.  Research on the internet is faster and more effective than ever.  Each student does her/his own individual research guided by teacher questions preparing their information for a class presentation.  Students develop their projects by reading research on the specific business to be visited, writing a short paper on the subject and making a presentation to the class members.  This would then lead to a discussion by class members and eventually specifics, including specific questions to be ask the experts at the site.

After questions are prepared and student interests are explored, the students prepare for the actual visit.  All students will have a list of questions to ask, will have notebooks to record their responses and cameras to take pictures, where allowed, of the activities of the variety of employees working for the company.  In most companies students will be amazed at the wide variety of jobs available from management to department personnel, to maintenance staff.

Returning from the job site students continue with their social skills by individually writing business style thank you letters to the appropriate personnel.  They then begin the discussion of their visit.  What was important, what did they learn what did they gain from their visit are good questions to ask.  Back in the classroom, the students work together to develop a short presentation, utilizing photos or videos to summarizing their experience.  This presentation, in front of a video camera with all students playing a role, will allow this activity to be experienced by other classes in the future.

Why a community experience?  Try this out for size.  Dissect an activity you do on a daily basis.  This could be your job, a hobby, managing a budget, making a meal or playing in a concert.  Anything worth doing would be valuable.  Now take the activity and break it down in separate parts.  Teach it to someone in parts with them taking notes and give them a multiple choice bubble test after each part is completed.  Not only is the difficulty factor increased for those learning, their ability to really learn is hampered.  Does this sound drab and dull to you?  Does this lead to the student igniting their passion for learning?  Does this lead to the student feeling stupid and wanting to give up?  Then why do we do it?

More detailed information as well as lesson plans for other activities can be found in our book, “Saving Students From A Shattered System” at

A little side note for administrators.  So you think doing this on a regular basis will be an administrative headache?  Covering teachers classes as they leave the building, paying more for teacher coverage?  Think again.  Remember block scheduling?  Some say it failed but that was because teachers were doing the same chalkboard talk within those parameters.  90 minutes is plenty of time to get to a job site, visit it and return.  And think how many projects can be done during that time without the ding dong interrupting.