Tool: Connecting to community resources
Purpose of this tool: This tool will help you and your colleagues to identify the organizations and groups that contribute to the community in which your students live. The central goal is to make connections with these organizations to enrich your students’ learning opportunities and to develop the types of partnerships that will support your students in school and beyond.
How to use this tool: You can use this tool individually to identify community resources you can draw on to enrich your curriculum. It is more powerful, however, if you use it with your colleagues. By working together, you can gain a more complete understanding of the community and you can also generate support and excitement about school/community connections beyond your own classroom. You can also use this tool with your students. Your students can use the tool as part of inquiry-based service learning projects that involve them investigating and assisting their community. This tool is also intended to be used with the Making the connections action plan.
Identifying organizations: With your colleagues, identify the organizations that contribute to the social, cultural, political, spiritual and economic well-being of the community in which your students live. Complete the Community Resources Worksheet as you identify these organizations and learn about them:
- Talk to your students about what organizations they belong to and what agencies and people provide them with support outside of school.
- Talk to students’ parents about where they work and about the organizations in which they are involved.
- Talk to the principal, counselors and other teachers in your school. Many of your colleagues may have connections with organizations and individuals that inform their teaching. For example, ask your colleagues if they have worked with artists-in-residence programs, youth development organizations (such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Girls Scouts and the 4-H), health organizations, cultural centers and other civic organizations.
- Talk to your friends about the organizations they’re involved in and the individuals they know who live and/or work in the community.
- City or town websites describe and have links to city-sponsored organizations and to community-based organizations. Cities also have catalogues that describe human service organizations.
- The local library may have listings of cultural centers and community organizations.
- The phonebook has listings of museums, cultural organizations (such as music schools and ethnic/cultural centers) and volunteer organizations.
Gathering information: Work with your colleagues to make a list of the community organizations that you have identified. Then, determine who will find out more about these organizations. The next step will be to call or visit the organization.
Making the connection: After you make the initial list, talk about which organizations you want to connect with further. Think about which organizations could make significant contributions to your students’ learning by providing them opportunities or assistance in getting involved in their communities. Consider the following questions:
- Which organizations are working on areas related to major curricular goals and learning standards?
- Which organizations will offer my students the opportunities to become involved in community projects and/or service learning?
- Which organizations can provide my students opportunities to develop their leadership skills?
- Which organizations can provide speakers to talk to my students about key issues related to the curriculum?
- Which organizations do or can provide students with extra academic support?
Make an appointment to visit the organizations and to talk with someone who works for them. Community organizations and social services often have volunteer coordinators who can provide important information about the organization and help develop ideas about how to connect the organization with your curriculum. Along with using your visit to get a sense of how the people in the organization work with young people, use the visit to answer the following question. (Note: These are not the only questions that are important. Before making your visits, work with your colleagues to adapt, modify and/or add to these questions):
- What is the organization’s main mission? What do they do to fulfill this mission, i.e., programs, services, work with other organizations and/or individuals?
- When was the organization founded? By whom? Why?
- What other organizations does this organization work with? How?
- How has the organization worked with the school? Teachers? Parents?
- How would the organization like to work with the school? Teachers? Parents?
- What kinds of projects or issues does the organization work on that students could get involved with?
- How does the organization make use of community members’ skills, knowledge and abilities?
- What community members are particularly important to the organization? Why?
- How could I talk with these individuals?
- How can I follow up with them on working together in the future?