Engagement – Service-Learning
Marcia fosters alliances so that schools, organizations and businesses, can collaborate and develop service-learning projects that help build students’ character, achieve academic success, and enable students to become capable citizens. Evidence of successfully developed engagement projects include the service-learning project developed in 2018 for Rochester (NY) City School #16 as well as many others she created and produced during her long k-12 music teaching career.
What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning (SL), a hands-on, project-based approach to teaching, has been promoted since the mid-1980s in higher education and k-12 schools. It is the deepest form of engagement. During the development of a service-learning project, students take an active role in making decisions. They collaborate while investigating community needs and consider how they might use academic knowledge and skills to address them. Character is developed, civic responsibility and leadership are fostered, academic achievement improves, especially for children in poverty, and students become more motivated to learn.
When students are given the opportunity to be agents of change through service-learning projects, their actions inspire others to apply knowledge in daily life. The result is a stronger community which values learning and collaborative problem solving for the benefit of all.
A Community Engagement Continuum:
Dr. Marcia Bornhurst Parkes and I met in the summer of 2018 when I served as a summer school principal at Rochester (NY) City School District, School 28. Marcia observed students learning, and when she heard that I was the vice-principal at RCSD School 16, an elementary school, she was eager to meet again. Having lived for decades in the school neighborhood, Marcia was aware of myriad problems, and she was eager to facilitate improvements.
At the meeting with School 16 principals that September, Marcia revealed a complete understanding of our school data as well as desired outcomes given in the School Comprehensive Education Plan. Marcia explained that when students are engaged in the service-learning pedagogy educational objectives can be met, student achievement increases, and character is strengthened, even for those living in poverty. Evidence of her dedication and success with middle school band students reinforced those points.
In 2018, eighty-six percent of School 16 students were living in poverty; many were experiencing trauma. Most performed at the lowest of four levels on standardized tests. Marcia had been following the work of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI) and Participatory Budgeting Rochester (PBR). Through PBR, Empire State grant funds would be awarded in the spring of 2019 to support new projects that would have won the public vote. Marcia made a compelling case for the development of a project at School 16. Since she had extensive leadership and project management experience, and understood our school problems, and since she was committed to help children in poverty, Marcia was invited to lead and produce a project with our faculty team.
From September through early February, Marcia worked with an art specialist and two who teach general music/choir and band. Applying her vast knowledge, teaching and administrative experience, and expertise in curriculum design and project development, she helped faculty focus on specific outcomes that would address student and community needs. Over 11 or team meetings and others with principals, Marcia offered a vision of engagement and service-learning, various learning opportunities for students, and how to connect with the community.
Potential presenters and teaching artists in building relationships, art, and music agreed to participate, and tentative plans for their presentations or teaching were developed. Likely community partners such as the 19th Ward Association Schools Committee, places of worship and other supporters were contacted. Leaders at the Rochester Presbyterian Home were eager to support the possibility of co-teaching and co-learning between elders and young students. The Arnett Library agreed to host one of two potential culminating experiences for the community. In addition to working with faculty, Marcia also served as a PBR Budget Delegate to ensure a high level of awareness of the needs at School 16.
Throughout the project development period and even after voting results were posted, we found Marcia to be a genuine, compassionate, and resourceful leader with a vision who enjoyed serving others. She embraced our school and the neighborhood with the hope that the school and this project would become a catalyst for building community. She worked tirelessly to identify additional resources and support, and she engaged various networks to support and publicize the project. Projects that won focused on highly critical needs such as housing for the homeless and food for the poor.
We are very grateful to Marcia for sharing her expertise, time, and talents. As a result of her work with our team, we have a greater appreciation for the benefits of service-learning: improved academic success and strengthened character. We hope to implement aspects of their work. Marcia is a highly-qualified, dedicated professional in the areas of leadership and service-learning. I highly recommend Dr. Marcia Bornhurst Parkes.
Lisa L. Garrow
John Walton Spencer School No. 16