Stemming from the NPES commitment to social justice (students challenging social, cultural, and economic inequalities), each year students embark on an inquiry cycle where they learn about a societal issue and take some action with others to help. The essential service learning question for Middle School is, “What issue do I feel passionate about and how might I bring about change?” This work can involve visits to urban gardens, food pantries, community organizations, and other places where Chicagoans are working together for a more inclusive, equitable, and just city for all. Our focus is not on service alone, but also on what people who have different life experiences, identities, and perspectives can teach us about the world.
Learning and service are integrated and all projects are embedded in the core curriculum. In the early years service themes are tangible and hyper-local. As students grow, the ideas they explore deepen and broaden to include more global issues. By middle school students tap into their personal passions and interests to make a difference of their own design. Service learning essential questions at each grade level are:
- Preschool & Kindergarten: How can we be positive and active members of our community?
- 1st Grade: How can we use wisdom learned from elders and the past to build a better future?
- 2nd Grade: How can we ensure food security for all of our neighbors?
- 3rd Grade: How can we support newly arrived refugees and immigrants to the United States?
- 4th Grade: How can we be stewards of our natural environment in our city and state?
- 5th Grade: How can we create and participate in a healthy democracy through our elected officials?
- Middle School – What issue do I feel passionate about and how will I bring about change?
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