CommonLore! a Professional Development Project in Real Time

 CommonLore! Students and Teachers Digging Deep Into the Community
CommonLore is an exciting place based service-learning PD program, connecting communities through student ethnography projects. We are currently piloting CommonLore in Los Angeles, along with other urban and rural locations around the U.S. CommonLore provides teachers with the training, inspiration, collaboration, and connections needed to create standards focused service-learning curriculum around their local community and neighborhoods. learn more •  contact us
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English Learners Building Language and Belonging through Folk Arts Education


Folk Arts Building Language and Belonging

Schools and educational programs intentionally designed to support the academic, linguistic, cultural, and social-emotional needs of newcomer English Learners (ELs) are rare. Even rarer are schools and programs that interweave folk arts into the educational program for newcomer ELs. Folk Arts–Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) in Philadelphia’s Chinatown strives to do both. FACTS was founded in 2005 by Asian Americans United and the Philadelphia Folklore Project to provide “equity and justice for Asian American students and immigrant and refugee students of all races in the public schools; for public investment and public space in the under- served Chinatown community; and for public schooling that engages children as active participants in working for a just society” (“Who We Are Statement” 2011, 1). This vision continues to drive FACTS’s mission today.

FACTS was founded not to undermine the public school system, but to serve as a model of innovation to inspire change in the education system. By positioning ELs and immigrant and refugee students and families at the center of its school mission and design, the school provides an exemplary education for ELs and creates a model of transformative education for all students. Continue reading

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Children of Shangri-Lost


We are a group of youth in Pittsburgh who want to show the world that despite being displaced and sometimes forgotten, we have not forgotten who we are and what we have to offer the world.

Our story is one of survival and of hope. We may be the Children of Shangri-Lost, but we have found ourselves in our new homes around the world. — Children of Shangri-Lost

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is home to approximately 5,000 Bhutanese refugees who are building thriving community of newcomers. In our “City of Bridges,” young Bhutanese have purposefully created a website and a community organization, which the welcome above proudly introduces, that have great potential to introduce different communities and cultural traditions. The website is only the most visible face of a much larger set of cultural endeavors. Young adults in Pittsburgh’s Bhutanese immigrant community share their dynamic, evolving folklife through Children of Shangri-Lost (COSL), a nonprofit organization. Together, COSL members curate an impressive set of social media projects and promote public forums that celebrate their traditional forms of cultural expression. They reach out to their new neighbors and proactively approach writing new narratives of where they have come from and who they are becoming. These resources can provide educators a dynamic model of ways that others can appreciate and incorporate lessons from their difficult journey toward full participation in the United States.

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Intentional Teaching, Against the Odds


Dr. Stuart Grauer is a teacher, the founding Head of School at The Grauer School, and Founder of The Small Schools Coalition.

“When we are born, we cry that we are come To this great stage of fools.” (King Lear, Act 4 Scene 6)

No sooner had our plane lifted off, on our expedition to London, thinking we might escape the apocalyptic news cycle for a few days and then return home fresh, back to a fresh year on the quad, the sparkle of the English literature seminar, the springy movement of teens on the green …

No sooner had we arrived in London then did Erin Langen, our theatre teacher, foist upon us all in the guise of Shakespearean wit and inspiration, at the Olde Globe theater, open air and much as it was first performed in 1608:

Original 1608 Olde Globe Playbill for “King Lear”

“King Lear,” miserable tragedy of betrayal and hopelessness that we can only hope to act our way out of. Thick tale of a humorless man getting old, making terrible judgments in a world where almost everyone but a kind daughter and a loyal minister, who both die wretchedly, will exploit him mercilessly and relentlessly — did I mention, for over three hours?

A professor at University of Warwick has published a paper called, “King Lear and the Collapse of Civilisation.” All this, in three plus hours of olde English rattled out across the fabled yard — the Olde Globe on the south bank of the River Thames.

So, we’re here in London with 18 students, preparing for the week’s finale, the performance of “The Tragedy…”. I haven’t been to England in over 30 years, but everything looks to me to be about the same — except the faces. Continue reading

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CommonLore—Building Empathy One Student at a Time

CommonLore—We’re Building Empathy One Student at a Time, by connecting students to the people of their communities. learn more:







CommonLore is a powerful place based service-learning and ethnography focused training and support program for K-16 educators. We begin with the belief that we must increase the “commons” in our communities—spaces for dialogue, understanding, empathy, and authentic compassion. Our initial teacher pilot projects are in Los Angeles and Vermont, along with other locations around the U.S. CommonLore provides teachers in local schools with training, inspiration, and hands-on peer collaboration. Our goal is to create and support student driven inquiry projects that bring local communities together. CommonLore projects begin with larger questions. Who makes up our community? What are our stories? How do our stories define us? Why are stories about ourselves and our community so important? Which stories lead to human growth, resilience, and justice? Where should we begin? Find out how we can support your own local work.
contact us  call: 909.480.3966

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Bringing Teaching and Learning to the Local Community

Educators from across the U.S. and well beyond gathered at CWI’s Summer EAST and WEST Institutes on Place Based Service-Learning. Our collective goal: to make community based learning a core experience for all of our students.

service learningIt’s been a powerful year full of important work with educators and schools across the U.S. and well beyond. Our first CWI-Korean Institute in Seoul was a great success. And, in Los Angeles at CWI’s Summer WEST Institute we worked in the streets of LA’s rapidly changing and gentrifying downtown, with our teacher participants practicing new skills with Collaborative Ethnography—aimed at understanding how to explore local communities. At our Summer EAST Institute we did similar field work in Winooski, Vermont, a struggling former mill town with a story to unfold, including now serving as a primary refugee resettlement location. learn more l subscribe to cwi’s e-news


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K-16 Educator Scholarships for Place Based Service-Learning

Register NOW for CWI 2018 Institutes with SCHOLARSHIP Supported Rates. Place Based Service-Learning for K-16.
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The Stone Wall Project: A Reflection on Hands-On Learning and Immovable Objects


EDITORS NOTE: The Stone Wall Project at Guilford Central School in Vermont was part of a long term effort to create and demonstrate the effect and power of hands-on place based
service-learning experiences — for both students and faculty.

School faculty began the project during the second of four local designed and run K-8 Institutes on Service-Learning. Students and community participants finished the wall as a community building effort when school resumed in the fall.

Martina Dancing and Joe Brooks, director of Guilford’s Institutes worked closely with local craftsman Smokey Fuller to find local stone donations and create a working space during the Institute for teachers to learn and participate in stone wall building.

While some teachers were a bit tentative about their own ability in the beginning, everyone quickly dove into the art of building this wall. The clearest evidence of that was how difficult it soon became to get teachers to come inside for their next workshop on curriculum design.

As teachers we may come to realize that our interests and values, our PASSIONS become a critical part of our ability to function as good teachers, parents and community members. My experience in planning and guiding a hands-on learning experience for classroom, specialist, and administrative educators, at The Guilford Summer Institute suggests how this fits for me. Continue reading

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One-Room School Houses: A Living History Curriculum Unit

The Little Red Brick School in Guilford Center—a painting by Bud Henry

This article is from our Journal archives and is one of our top reads ever. Kathy and Dale designed and carried out this unit as members of the primary teaching team at The Guilford School in Vermont. Dale began planning a study of Guilford’s one-room schoolhouses at the first of a series of Summer Institutes held at Guilford School. Kathy also worked that summer with a group of teachers and community members planning garden projects at the school. Near the beginning of the school year they made the decision to work together with their students on the one-room school unit, which they reprised and improved over the years.

The Beginnings
Our interest and study of One Room Schools went back to Guilford’s Summer Institute. During the summer we had worked at the Institute with a team of community members and school staff to develop projects that would bring together the twin strategies of service learning and community inquiry. We created a planning document and used that to help guide our way. We were also seeking to use our local resources to bring the school and community closer together. We saw the study of one-room schools as a way to do this, while honoring our senior population, most of whom attended one-room schools. For those who did, it was a formative experience, significantly different from today’s more centralized school system.

The Green River School, circa 1909

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A Student’s Conversation with a Ninth Generation Vermont Farmer


An interview by Eric Heikkila, 8th grade student. This was originally published in The Guilford Gazette, a long running student produced community newspaper in rural Vermont. We are republishing it now as an excellent example of an oral history project. Learn more about student projects like this.

The first look you get at Bob Gaines you know he has worked hard all his life. I recently interviewed him and found out a lot about him and his work on the Gaines farm today. He believes he has seen a lot of change, in the way we live, in farming, and in the school system. He went to Slate Rock School in Guilford on Route 5 (before it was paved!), where there were about 25 students in his class — although he said the number varied throughout the year. During the fall and spring there weren’t many in attendance because they were at home helping with chores. In the winter many children came because there was nothing else to do. At the time there were about 9 or 10 schools in Guilford all from grades 1 through 8. In the morning the teacher would work with grades 1, 2, and 3 until 10:00, then they were allowed to go outside, while the teacher worked with the older grades. The smaller kids came in at noon and had lessons until 2:00 when they went home. The older kids stayed longer and received more help after 2:00.

Just like now the kids enjoyed an excuse to get out of class. He said they always looked forward to getting the pail of drinking water for the class or getting the Christmas tree in the winter, which took all day. When he graduated, there were 14 others in his class but only one was from his school so he knew no one else.

After graduation he went to high school in Brattleboro. Fewer students were able to attend back then because it cost $100 tuition. The Town of Guilford paid $50 and the parents paid $50. He said he was lucky because his father had a car that he let him use to get to school because there were no buses. After high school, besides working on the farm, he has fought in a war, worked for the electric company and was Master of the Broad Brook Grange. He was president of the Windham County Farm Bureau, served 20 years on the Agriculture Conservation Board for Windham County and six years on the school board (on the planning committee for the school), was an auditor in Guilford and many, many other things I am sure. He served in the U.S. Army for five years, three of which were spent overseas in the Pacific. He feels the service gave him great opportunity to see different parts of the country and the world. He even lived in New Zealand for three months, which he thinks is a beautiful country.

The land for the farm was bought by David Gaines in 1780, when Vermont was not yet a state. The price was paid in British pounds because the United States did not have its own currency. Some of the farm was on “Glebe” land. This was land that was set aside by the King to support the Church of England. The farm paid rent once a year for the right to use the land. The house that now stands on the farm was built by Joel Gaines in 1860. In 1900, Joel also built what was a modern three-story barn at the time. Seven years later in 1907, the barn burned to the ground. The farm has always been passed down through the family. Bob is the seventh generation and his grandsons, Kyle, Bradley, and Joel are the ninth generation.

Bob says farming has changed a lot in his lifetime. For example, everything used to be done with horses and now it’s done with tractors. It has become a lot more “high tech” with all the modern machinery. they didn’t even have electricity until 1946, after World War II. The company that had the contract didn’t have enough workers, so they supplied the materials and the Gaines family and their neighbors had to put up the lines themselves. When he first started out, they milked by hand and now they use milking machines. Corn and hay used to be cut by hand and now there are machines to do that too. It is easier now, he admits, since there’s less hand work but it’s hard to stay in business because the machines cost so much and it’s also hard just to keep the farm up to date. “This is the only industry that buys retail and sells wholesale,” he commented dryly. Another change I found interesting was they used to sell just the cream from the milk and kept the skim to feed the animals and when they started to sell the skim milk the “old timers” thought it was like selling the farm.

Major change came for him and the entire state of Vermont with the construction of Interstate 91. It went right through the Gaines farm and the state had to buy some of their land. He says that the interstate brought people in to ski and vacation. Land which before was very tough to sell even at a low price became very expensive. The whole economy of the state changed.

He likes most all his work on the farm but admitted that milking was his favorite because it brings in the most money. He believes he would have worked for the electric company if he hadn’t been able to farm because that was what he did for a while after WWII, when he got out of the service. The busiest time of the year for him is the spring, trying to beat the clock and get everything done in time so it will be ready for winter.

Bob Gaines is happy with what he’s doing and says

“These are changes that could be made, but I sleep well at night.”

©Guilford Gazette, All Rights Reserved The Guilford Gazette is a long running student run community newspaper in rural Vermont. learn more

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An Intercultural Student Project as a Path for Advocating for Immigrants


Chatterton (2008) advocates a collaborative process that: 1) gives voice to the dreams and desires of real people struggling for justice and equality; 2) provokes productive discussion by bringing our community work into the classroom, into our scholarship, and into the public: and 3) that brings our students out to engage in the world(s) we study. In the Spring of 2008 two professors at Georgia Southern University (GSU) stepped up to Chatterton’s call by planning and executing a collaborative service learning opportunity with students in Intercultural Communication and Advanced Video Production courses, and the Southeast Georgia Communities Project (SECGP). SEGCP is a non-profit organization serving needy families and migrant/seasonal farm workers in the area. Students produced a ten minute video documenting their service-learning experience with SEGCP and their conversations with Mexican migrant workers. The video is used as an educational and fund raising tool by SEGCP and GSU faculty. The entire project became a step toward a sustainable working relationship between the university and Latino/a community in the region. In this essay, the authors discuss how they came to be involved in the project, their preparation for the field trip, and their field/service experience. They conclude with a discussion of outcomes, including other community-based learning opportunities that the project set in motion.

Documenting an Amazing Encounter: Fostering Sustainable Intercultural Exchange

Chatterton (2008) encourages scholars to spend as much time as possible working outside of the university with/in communities in need of support. The author also extols universities as “amazing places of encounter, conflict, diversity and debate (not to mention resources), and it is crucial that we find ways to defend and expand these and open them up to others” (p.421). To bring these worlds together Chatterton (2008) advocates a collaborative process that 1) gives voice to the dreams and desires of real people struggling for justice and equality, 2) provokes productive discussion by bringing our community work into the classroom, into our scholarship, and into the public, and 3) that brings our students out to engage in the world(s) we study. In his conclusion, he exhorts us to “[p]ush the boundaries, kick up a fuss, organize with friends” (2008, p.426). The authors of this essay stepped up to Chatterton’s call not only in terms of the project in which they participated, but in the writing of this essay as well. Continue reading

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