civics


Using the Community to Improve Test Scores and Learning
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

haskvitz111

The St. Lawrence River was close to the school and so I walked the students in my special needs class to its banks. Most of the students had seen it everyday of their lives, but had never seen it. I took them close to the shoreline and had them look at the small fish and close their eyes to listen to rush of the water. I threw a piece of driftwood into the water. A student with a watch stood 100 meters downstream and called out the length of time it took to travel that distance. I threw another piece this time further out and they did the same. When we returned I showed them how to measure the speed of the river and noted that this is what sailors did in olden times to check their speed. The students found the water moved away from the shore. I asked them to draw the feeling the sound of the river gave them. After the spring thaw, the students returned to the river and instead of the fish there was trash and they didn’t like it.

In these two field trips a lifetime of environmental learning took place. Upset at what they had seen they turned to the community, created posters to display in stories, took photos, and wrote letters. The people responded and the primary goal of all learning was felt by all as the students were empowered to use what they had learned to make changes in society.

So too, my life as a teacher with a hidden agenda began. Today, nearly 40 years later I am now teaching social studies at a middle school and my agenda is still being followed, but no longer hidden thanks to the many teachers and organizations who have found that the community and the students need not be mutually exclusive.

My students have been involved in countless other activities to educate and improve the conservation of resources. Many times my students have been ahead of their times. In 1988 my students wrote a letter to the United Nations asking for a Day of Atmosphere Awareness. The return letter from Arthur Zegelbone promised that the United Nations was aware of the “greenhouse effect” and that there was going to be a World Environment Day on June 5th in Brussels. As we know, little was done since that time, but the students saw the problem and took action. A few years later they wrote and passed legislation that required all state funded building in California to use xeriscape landscaping to conserve water. The bill had overwhelming support. But that wasn’t enough.
After the first encounter with the United Nations they put together an entry that Target selected as one of the best environmental programs in the nation and they traveled to New York to contact members about their concerns. Target and the local water district paid for the trip and expenses.

The students noted the large amount of wasted paper at the school and came up with a method of self-sorting the trash. Not satisfied, they started a conservation club that recycles most everything at the school from printing cartridges to eye glasses. They hold community outreach events to educate adults and students from other schools as well. They started a Monarch butterfly garden to provide a safe home for these migrating butterflies as well as a Feed the Homeless garden that was fertilized using compost from a bin they had won at a country sponsored environmental conference. The recycle bins came from the city.

Nothing the struggle of the grey wolf, they raised funds to sponsor a young pup at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary. Noting that toilets were one of the main uses of water in a household they worked with the local water district to provide water displacement kits for city residents with the goal of saving six million gallons of water a year. To help residents understand the beauty of using landscaping that didn’t require a lot of water they designed and maintain a demonstration garden that shows these plants to residents.

Of course, some of their ideas met dead-ends because those in charge didn’t understand the value of their ideas. Supported by many water districts in the Western United States, they promoted the idea to taking a large trailer containing environment friendly plants to display at malls and major events. In that way, the garden would come to the people. The idea lost the competition, but the students learned a lesson about the difficulty of getting others to see the need to conserve.

Noting that need they decided to see how such changes were made. They decided to find out what was required for citizens to vote and were shocked to discover that they couldn’t understand the voting poll rules. They got a copy of the rules, rewrote them. and asked the Country Registrar of Voters to look at them. The Registrar accepted them and the changes were implemented making it easier for people to vote. They did the same with the state voter registration forms. Millions of California voters were impacted by their efforts.

They worked with the local police department to do safety belt checks and earn the community honors from the National Highway Safety Association. The police also taught the students how to fingerprint and they did this for all incoming students.

Working with local leaders they created a website that enabled communities to compare themselves to other communities in several key areas such as library books, business license fees, medical care facilities, and park space among others. It was judged to be of such value that the students were sent to Italy to represent the United States in international competition.

The students worked with the city landscape staff and came up with a plan which was presented at a City Council meeting. The plan was designed to save the city several million dollars in just a few years.

Making current events more meaningful, the students devolved and printed a newsletter that contained the highlights of every day’s events and faxed it to the local maternity wards where the nurses duplicated it and gave it the mothers of those children born on that day.

There is much more, but the most vital thing I have learned is that having students apply their learning to real world concerns make the lesson more meaningful for them and thus improves society. Perhaps most telling is that despite doing all these projects my student’s test scores have gone up dramatically. My first year at the school the state average for social studies was in the 22nd percentile. Getting the students involved in the next three years helped drive the score to the 94th percentile. Today, 25 years later, the state has a new test but the results are the same. Teaching at a school with seven subcategories; four minorities, ESL, low income, and special education, my students have consistently been at the top of the state test results even compared with gifted magnet schools. Indeed, of my 170 students, nearly 99 percent finished at the top of the State’s yearly standardized test. In other words, the community can provide the motivation to help improve test scores.

The point is that teaching students about the environment by using the community is not mutually exclusive from teaching them subject matter. Just as my special education students did 40 years ago, using the environment as a foundation for a learning lesson encourages them to see the importance of what they are studying and self-motivates them. The results are a win-win-win for the students, society, and test scores.

Editor’s Note: Al’s students also helped Joy Hakim write one of her The Story of Us books. And the student’s Powerpoints on the Westward Movement were accepted by the California Oregon Trail Association to be shared with others as well as the DMV. They also worked to put the Parklands Initiate on the California ballot, created a website on The History of Government that a professor at Harvard had high praise for and created a website that helps others with the State social studies standards. They also created story tapes for the Junior Blind. Finally, there interest in cars resulted in their findings on driving more efficiently being posted on the DMV site and they published their own textbooks. He was selected one of the 100 most influential educators in the world and earned the coveted Cherry International Teaching Award, the only classroom teacher so honored. His students have earned trips to Sea World, Disneyland, CNN, Busch Gardens, Washington DC, New York, the United Nations, and Rome where they represented the USA in technology competition.

Election and Propaganda Lessons

This is a great time of year to use teachable moments in your curriculum. You can integrate election issues into current events, math, civics and social studies, history, life skills, and other areas. Here are some of the best resources I have found. Please feel free to send me your own by clicking on my name on http://www.reacheverychild.com/alan.html

Election Videos

A great collection on all aspects of voting and elections past and present.

http://www.watchknow.org/SearchResults.aspx?SearchText=election

Teachable moments

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/teachable-moments.html

 

Propaganda

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/propaganda.htm

Elections

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/election08.html

Prepare your students to vote

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/election.html

Voting sites

http://www.reacheverychild.com/socialstudies/civics/voting.html

Get Ready to Vote

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/elections.html

Presidential Links

Check out the mock voting sites. Excellent and involving. Also make sure you order materials from VoteSmart. Non-partisan, easy to read, and in many languages.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/presidents.html

 

Civics

http://www.reacheverychild.com/lessonplans/plan7.html

And

http://www.reacheverychild.com/socialstudies/civics/index.html

Contributions to candidates

http://www.fec.gov/DisclosureSearch/mapApp.do

Contributions by Zip Code

http://www.opensecrets.org/

And

http://www.opensecrets.org/states/index.php

General Sites

C-Span

c-spanclassroom.org

New York Times Learning Network

http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/category/civics

The White House

http://www.whitehouse.gov

Banned Book Lists and Lessons

by Alan Haskvitz

http://www.reacheverychild.com/alan.html

The power of the writing word has caused a great many legal cases challenging the First Amendment. A discussion about these cases and the books involved is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about the legal process and see different viewpoints.

What I especially like about this topic is that shows how society’s values change over time and enables students to develop an appreciation for standing up for one’s rights. As always preview these resources with the child and parents in mind. And there is a need to explain to the students that a banned book and a challenged book are not the same. As always, follow the directions of your administration.

Teachers and the Law

Legal cases that all educators and parents should know about.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/teacher_law.html

The American Library Association Page

Includes a list of frequently banned books plus ideas and resources and a calendar of events.

http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm

Books Suppressed by Legal Authorizes

For older students. Really quite interesting to see the differences in various countries as well as in the past.

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/banned-books.html

History of Book Banning

http://www.freedomtoread.ca/links_and_resources/bannings_and_burnings.asp

Recent censorship

Includes banned books and authors.

http://banned-books.com/bblist.html

Banned Children’s Books

Includes Goosebumps, My Brother Sam is Dead, Gulliver’s Travels, and

Harriet the Spy among others

A link page for older students

http://www.booksatoz.com/censorship/banned.htm

Classic books that have been banned.

http://classiclit.about.com/od/bannedliteratur1/Banned_Books_Censorship.htm

Banned book and censorship resources

For older students

http://www.georgesuttle.com/censorship/

The Controversy over Harry Potter

http://www.kidspeakonline.org/fighthp_zeeland.html

How to deal with Censorship in Schools

Includes ideas and links.

http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr031.shtml

Lesson Plans

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=410

When Books Burn

Lessons and Links

http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/burnedbooks/

Reasons to teach about banned books

http://step.evergreen.edu/tescind/censorshiplesson.htm

Banned Book Webquest

http://education.iupui.edu/webquests/books/banned.htm

Webquest for older students

http://www2.gvsu.edu/~zoellmee/webquest/

How to Prepare Young People to Vote

http://www.reacheverychild.com

Regardless of political opinion, learning to vote and to educate young people on its importance is vital. It is also important to note that this is a global right. The links I have posted her help people understand how to vote and about elections around the world.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/election.html

How to talk to students about the war and school violence

By Alan Haskvitz, national inservice presenter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

I have placed resources that deal with the following issues here.

http://www.reacheverychild.com

· Overviews

· Helping Young Children

· Resources for Caregivers, Teachers, Health Professionals and Communities

· Help for Older Children and Teenagers

· Coping with Loss

· Helping Adults and Helping Others

· Addressing Hatred

Teaching Resources for Cesar Chavez

Alan Haskvitz, national inservice presenter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

For more lessons and ideas go to http://www.reacheverychild.com

Cesar Chavez Foundation Educational Materials

http://www.chavezfoundation.org/resource-library.html

Biography and lesson plans

http://www.powayusd.com/projects/multicultural/CesarChavez.htm

http://www.lasculturas.com/aa/bio/bioCesarChavez.htm

Lesson plans for all grades

http://www.teachkind.org/feat/cesarchavez/accompaniment.html

Model Curriculum for all grades

http://chavez.cde.ca.gov/ModelCurriculum/Teachers/index1.aspx

Links

http://www.colapublib.org/chavez/links.htm

http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/chavez/

Famous speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

http://www.wccusd.k12.ca.us/stc/Waysofthinking/append/ChavezSpeech1.htm

Lesson plan

http://www.lessonplanspage.com/SSLAMDCesarChavez24.htm

http://www.readinga-z.com/newfiles/levels/lesson_plans/y/cesarchavez/cesarchavez_print.html

For more lessons on all subjects go to http://www.reacheverychild.com

Lessons on Patriotism for the Classroom

By Alan Haskvitz, national inservice presenter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/patriotism.html

Patriotism is defined as loyalty, pride or fervent love of one’s country. Sometimes the definition includes allegiance to its government and institutions. And others wrote about
America’s experiment with government by the people.

“What then is the American, this new man? . . . He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”
Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur from Letters from an American Farmer

These new manners included democracy, freedom and the rule of law. And the founding fathers did their best to provide the framework in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Yet they realized these new freedoms required citizens to perform certain duties and to surrender certain rights to vest their government with the powers to function.

Possibly our most basic duty, and a patriotic act in and of itself, is voting. Our government does not just encourage participation; it is the key to our existence as a democracy. As citizens, we have a duty to select our government.

But the responsibility doesn’t end with our vote. It is also our responsibility to form and express opinions about the operation of that government; to participate in the political process. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country.”

Perhaps Abraham Lincoln described it best in his address to the 166th
Ohio regiment on Aug. 22, 1864.

“I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence: that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright. . . . The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

Education links are listed here

They include clip art, themes, art actitives, the national patriotic museum, and a collection of good links.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/patriotism.html