Florescent lights glow overhead, and I am sitting in a pee-wee sized kindergarten chair in a tiny circle of kindergarteners. Squirming and wiggling in their seats, we are all enjoying our small reading group. It is a Friday morning for both Lakeland Elementary School and Quest Early College High School (QECHS). Every Friday morning, all Quest students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on service learning out in the community. I personally was an aide in an elementary school classroom, but students have the opportunity to volunteer at various service sites, from retirement homes to food pantries.
Questâ€™s service learning model is superb, because every single student at Quest is required to participate in service learning. On Friday mornings, Quest students arrive at QECHS and take attendance, and then they board school buses and are transported to their service sites. Quest students will typically spend two and a half to three hours volunteering Friday mornings at their service site.
Why is so much time allotted to volunteering and service learning?
Because Quest feels that service learning develops invaluable character traits and life skills. Encouraging students to develop relationships in their community means that they will feel invested in their community, and it means that my peers and I feel connected and valuable to our world. Additionally, Questâ€™s service learning means that students learn such workplace and life skills as communication and punctuality because it is expected of them in a real-world situation every single Friday.
All schools could benefit from the lessons that service learning at Quest teaches, but executing such a service learning program is difficult in large schools. Questâ€™s service learning works because of our dedicated staff and small student population â€“there are 275-300 Quest students. In a school with upwards of 3, ooo students, bussing the entire school population out into the community is complicated.
My question are: what is the alternative for such large high schools as Bellaire and Kingwood?
Can such civic engagement and community activism be fostered in these large environments?
Maybe these lessons are already being taught in large high schools? I would love to hear your thoughts!