Community-based learning features exploration of the local community and natural surrounding through hands-on experiences that involve discovery, inquiry and problem-solving, all of which develop students’ skills and abilities. This type of learning sometimes also involves interdisciplinary curricula and team teaching. The students work on real-world issues that they identify, or on needs identified during community meeting of teachers, students, parents, residents and other local partners.
Research on community-based learning is clear: it works. Students in schools and classrooms that use the needs of their communities as a platform for learning score higher on standardized tests in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Students tend to improve their overall GPA, stay in school longer, and receive higher-than-average scholarship awards. Teaching and learning that takes place through the Stewardship Initiative is aligned with the Michigan Merit Curriculum, Grade Level and High School Content Expectations.
Students in classrooms that feature community-based learning also demonstrate higher motivation to achieve individual potential compared to their peers in other classrooms. Teacher report other benefits to students: fewer discipline problems, better attendance, deeper civic engagement, and more responsible behavior in both school and community settings. Community-based learning benefits students and communities.
Students in community-based environmental study programs spend more time out of doors, develop more attachment to where they live, and exhibit great environmental stewardship. At a time when there is growing concern about young people spending little time outdoors, being physically inactive, and feeling alienated from their communities, the initiative seeks to help young people reconnect with the places where they live and, in the process, become active environmental stewards.
Focusing on community needs opens young people to a larger world of possibilities. The hands-on learning and exposure to various professional disciplines that young people gain in community-based learning often jump-starts their thinking about a new set of career opportunities. Further, the deeper awareness of where they live can lead students to acquire a new appreciation of place that can last a lifetime-possibly inspiring young people to remain in Michigan in the future.
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