Service Learning | Education that transforms communities, students beyond the classroom

2019 – 2020

When Providence Day School teacher Dr. Jennifer Bratyanski mentions 2016 grad Grant Williams, her voice suddenly catches: “Awesome, knuckleheaded kid,” she says.

Bratyanski’s proud. Not only because Williams excelled as a student and basketball player at the University of Tennessee nor because he was recently drafted by the Boston Celtics. What makes her emotional is the way the 6’7” power forward stood up for teammates and other athletes at Tennessee a couple years ago.

When Williams noticed there were fewer healthy food options available to student athletes training on campus during the summer, he contacted the school’s new athletic director and advocated for change. Because of his efforts, the university implemented a healthy grab-and-go breakfast option for student athletes. 

That’s the power of Service Learning and just one of many examples of former students making a difference, says Bratyanski, who serves as one of the school’s Community Engagement Coordinators for Social Responsibility: “You’re advocating for others who aren’t advocating for themselves.”  

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Read Charlotte Transformation Network Leads Mini Reading Revolution at Ashley Park

January 2019

These days when Mark Dickmann walks through the halls of Ashley Park PreK-8 School, he notices a new air of positivity and hopefulness. A former outreach pastor, Dickmann has been working to improve quality of life on Charlotte’s west side for over 17 years. Now as the Director of Education and Community for Freedom Communities at Ashley Park, he oversees a flurry of volunteer initiatives and literacy-related activities at the school. He also serves as the site co-lead for the Read Charlotte Transformation Network, a program piloting in 12 CMS schools this year, and says this targeted and collaborative approach to improving literacy is unprecedented.

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Making the Case for Single-Gender Classrooms

2018 – 2019

Educators are always looking for the best ways to help students learn. Some local schools and programs around the country are trying single-gender classrooms — an idea with old-fashioned roots that advocates say can provide innovative solutions to some of today’s educational challenges.

As early as the mid-1800s, the United States was already a leader in public school co-education, says Johann Neem, author of “Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America.” Boys and girls, however, often occupied different sides of the classroom and many institutions of higher education remained single gender well into the 19th and 20th centuries. The common view was that “boys and girls/men and women had different social roles and virtues, and each had to be protected,” Neem says.

These days, advocates for separating genders say it’s about providing educational equity for all students. They argue that subconscious biases can prevent equal participation in class, that girls and boys have different learning styles, and that kids can more easily be themselves in a single-gender classroom setting.

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Middle School Camps: Discovering Passions While Building Life Skills

January 24, 2018

In middle school, kids often discover their extracurricular passions. From the arts and sports to robotics and outdoor adventure, specialized summer camp options enable middle schoolers to dive into an activity they love without school-year obligations. While refining their abilities or taking on new challenges at camp, middle schoolers also develop important skills that may help them later in life in unexpected ways.

Camps that draw tweens and teens who share similar passions open up opportunities for collaboration and communication. George Ramsay and Dean Williams, owners of Bold Music launched their summer Studio Recording and Songwriting Camp to inspire young musicians.

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This (French) School Rocks Too!

October 2015

It’s a sizzling June day in Sorgues, a small town in the South of France, and the cicadas fill the air with their distinctive chh-chh-chh sound. Tomorrow is the end-of-year celebration at Elsa Triolet elementary school, and the students have been rehearsing their dance numbers all morning.

Frederic Bernardelli’s third-grade class buzzes with excitement when they see us, the American visitors who have come to chat with them. It’s a special day for us too, especially for my son Noah, a first-grader in Waddell Language Academy’s French immersion program. We’re visiting the school where his grandfather taught for more than 20 years!

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Learning to the Beat at Hip-Hop University

July 26, 2016

Great teachers know the first step in inspiring students is connecting with them. That’s exactly what public school teachers Albert Carter and Reginald LaRoche have done with Hip-Hop University, an academic skills and mentoring program that uses hip-hop music to build knowledge and motivate students.

Now in its third year, the Charlotte-based nonprofit is grooving in multiple cities, including Charlotte, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and by the end of 2016 plans to be active in St. Louis, and Abu Dhabi too. The organization uses the music and culture of hip-hop as a stepping stone to reinforce math, English and other skills, as well as introduce students to different career options and encourage positive social engagement.

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Lawrence Land: Teacher of the Month

November 2016

When fifth-grade teacher Lawrence Land was 16, he fell in love with Germany during a summer exchange program to the rural village of Pfaffenhofen. Now a German immersion teacher at E. E. Waddell Language Academy, he describes each school year as a journey with his students.

Herr Land, as his students call him, believes this journey must captivate the attention of his fifth-graders every moment of the day. He continually stretches his students’ thinking and keeps the classroom dynamic.

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