”Prince of Peace Christian School and Early Learning Center provide a Christ-centered, exemplary education, equipping students as disciples and leaders for service and success in the 21st century.”
As I’ve looked at other faith-based institutions, I’ve noticed that mission statements are similar. They typically focus on the faith component first because that’s what they most value. After that, there’s usually something about developing leaders and servants. Sometimes, you’ll also see some verbiage about the 21st century or prepping learners to live in an increasingly global society.
So how does this all tie into PBL? I feel like there are some great opportunities for teachers to develop projects that serve their community. Many faith-based schools focus on service. They learn about service in theology classes; they look at what Jesus did to serve his community and the world at large. Sometimes, students write notes to encourage veterans and shut-ins. They might even organize a day of service in which the entire day is spent serving local businesses, hospitals, churches, nursing homes, animal shelters, etc. My question is: if service is such a big part of so many institutions’ mission statements, why not make it a bigger part of their curriculum?
We talk about state standards all the time, but every institution has other maybe less defined standards that come from their mission. In my case, we want to train up students to use their gifts and abilities to service others because of the grace that Jesus Christ has shown us. What does it take to build projects that wrap around this concept? In my experience, it takes a good amount of brainstorming and just being observant to the needs of your community. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Last year, I was approached by a retired pastor who made me aware of an organization that had been around for about thirty five years. He wanted to know if my video production students would be interested in making a video for them. I said well, one video doesn’t work well for a class of eight students. How about we make eight? He said, “ok, I’ll talk to my people and see what we can do!” And that’s where the project began. We’re two years into it, and my students are now advertising agents for a client sharing helpful resources to groups of senior adults in the community.
A few years back, I taught eighth grade science. At that time, I and a group of students did some work with a school in Haiti. We learned that Haitians spend about 50% of their monthly income on coal for cooking. I’d heard of solar oven projects in school so I started looking around online for a real world connection. After a brief search, I found that there are tons of organizations that build solar ovens for developing countries. I asked my principal if I could take a professional day to design a PBL around this idea. He let me take a day, and I developed Serving with Solar, a project in which students designed solar ovens for developing countries. The exhibition was a cookout for the entire middle school. Parents came and enjoyed the food in addition to hearing their kids talk about what they had learned.
Questions for discussion/reflection:
- How have you creatively connected your curriculum to acts of service to your community?
- Many times, the most authentic projects are those that connect students with the community outside of the school walls. Have you been able to pull this off? How? Share your story. Sharing your connection might help someone make a new connection between their curriculum and community.
- How do you carry out the mission of your school in the curriculum you teach?