Connecting Classrooms to your Community
By MEREK CHANG
As we make our return to in-person learning, it is more important than ever that students feel connected to the communities in which they live in. Whether it’s being exposed to local businesses, partnering with local agencies for student to share their ideas, or creating media to educate and uplift student voices during distance learning, it is more important now than ever that students feel connected to their community but also that they have an impact and essential role in it. Designing lessons and opportunities for students to interact and feel as if they are making a difference will go a long way in building students up as we reopen schools.
In completing various projects that connect the community to my classroom, I have found that students feel more engaged in what they are learning as they have an authentic audience they are presenting to and not just submitting an assignment that will be graded by a teacher. Students have grown in their experience in taking what they learned out of the classroom, and local businesses and government agencies have a way to connect back to the schools in their community. It is my hope that we will continue developing and growing these partnerships at Workman High School and my belief that if we do, the connection between community and classroom can only increase and our students can be exposed to more of what exists in their own neighborhoods.
Adopt & Adapt
In order for school communities to adapt this solution, they must develop programs that invite community programs and businesses on to campus. School districts have become more closed to outside agencies for fear of lawsuits and liability. School districts must take a proactive approach in developing programs and best practices that allow communities and classrooms to connect.
From there, individual school sites must leverage staff relationships and connections to develop opportunities for teachers to connect the community to the classroom. As a science teacher with experience in food science and a love of coffee and ice cream, this led me to create chemistry projects that revolve around food. The goal is to take something students are already going to learn, find an authentic challenge they can present on, and find non-educator professionals who have experience in the area in which your challenge is centered on to provide feedback on the work students complete. In the video and image below, students are presenting their ice cream calculations and their flavor to an owner of a successful ice cream shop in the community.