The literacies within academic service-learning
Aaron, Jennifer Elizabeth
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As the mandates in education and demands placed on teachers increase, it is important that educators continue to utilize ways to teach children that encourage opening up our understanding of what learning means. Academic service-learning is one way of doing just that, by providing students the opportunity to take a critical look at their community and work with its members to identify and address a need. One key piece of this critical look, as clearly defined in the National and Community Service Act (1990), is “structured time for students to think, talk, or write about what they did or observed”—all important aspects of literacy. This study focuses in on what literacy learning looked like within an academic service-learning setting, where third grade learners were expected to question and reflect on the objectives being learned, rather than blindly learning said objectives for “the test.” Using a Freireian critical lens to focus qualitatively on nine literacy events in a third grade classroom engaged in an academic service-learning project, this study sought to answer: (a) What does it mean to take a critical inquiry stance on academic service-learning? What are the possibilities? The limitations? The challenges? (b) What are some of the ways that students use literacy—as critical readers, writers, speakers, thinkers, questioners, and reflectors—when they are asked to make connections across the curriculum, their individual lives, and the community in which they are participants? (c) What did I learn about myself as a teacher and the practice of guiding the academic service-learning processes with young children?; and (d) What are the implications of doing academic service-learning?