We must educate our students to participate. For students to be most effective in civic engagement, they must first learn about the issues from the experts. Teens can then plan effectively to address real-world problems facing our communities. ACTION uses our combined lunch and homeroom hour for Lunch & Learn sessions with career mentors. We tried this “power hour” model last year when Karen Jackson (Clemson Extension) and Chanda Cooper (Richland Soil & Water Conservation District – SC) worked with our Unified Partners Team to plan and design a bioswale for our outdoor classroom. The benefits of Lunch & Learns are four-fold. First, you widen the student’s knowledge-base by bringing in experts from various fields. Secondly, you identify the problem and decide on a plan of action. Thirdly, you build relationships among the team during planning meetings which allow for active participation. The idea is for the mentor to work alongside the teens during these sessions of inquiry and discovery. Finally, the knowledge and unity developed among team members results in a deeper level of commitment and a more effective project outcome.
This year, we will incorporate lunch sessions with all ACTION Teams. Kena Dill, the program director of Leeza’s Care Connection, spoke at a Lunch and Learn for our ACTION Care Team yesterday. Ms. Dill shared about the challenges that primary caretakers face when caring for family members suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other health issues such as Parkinson’s. Students connected their own experiences to the facts they were learning. When Kena shared her personal story, students developed deeper empathy. After a mini-lesson, students broke into groups to brainstorm. Kena and I asked the teens to write down ways in which they could use their talents to support caretakers. One group planned ways to support the caretakers during the holidays recognizing that this can be a more stressful time for families. Another group thought of ways to use their music talents to support the caretakers. Music therapy is an evidence-based practice. A third group had a great idea about creating photo stories using the caretakers’ old family pictures. The students will use technology to add music and/or narration to accompany the slideshow. We had so much fun planning outreach activities to support our local caretakers. I love our students’ passion and dedication towards civic engagement.
Lunch & Learn sessions provide a time for students to search for solutions with the aid of an expert. Our teens are not given the answer, but the opportunity to explore possibilities before deciding on a course of action. One student left yesterday’s planning session and told her science teacher, “I am really excited, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. It seems like a lot.” Her teacher shared that he also feels this way when first faced with a problem. You can’t do it all at once. It is important to take things one step at a time. Lunch & Learns are the first step in the team process.
by Lori Wenzinger, M. Ed (original post here)