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Learning fractions is fun?

Academic Service Learning connects life, the classroom

May 26, 2010 - Academic Service Learning is like a class where kids don't ask "When am I ever going to use this?" says Laurie Trafton, program coordinator for Lake Orion Community Schools.

Pine Tree Elementary third-graders planted tomato plants and tracked their growth as part of their plants unit. At the end of May, the plants will be donated to the Community Garden. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
She says the program connects meaningful community service with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. Using money from Learn and Serve, in Michigan, and designations from United Way, Trafton and her staff filters grants of $200 for a teacher or $500 for a team of teachers into the district for learning projects, like sewing quilts, reading to younger kids, building decks and planting vegetables.

"It works because students are engaged in the learning process," she said. "It's so cool when you see the dynamics taking place."

For one project, students partnered with Grace Centers of Hope in Pontiac to build a deck on a house for young adults who've aged out of foster care. For another project, third graders learned about fractions and assembly lines by making jars of cookie batter ingredients. And for another project, after being inspired by Gloria Whelan's children's book, Homeless Bird, students sewed and donated quilts.

Trafton says Academic Service Learning hands out between 15 and 20 grants each year for these and similar projects, but projects not in need of funding continue all the time.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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