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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Barry Guillot: Service Learning

Barry Guillot is a seventh grade science teacher at the Harry M. Hurst Middle School in Destrehan, Louisiana. Mr. Guillot launched the LaBranche Wetland Watchers project in 1998. More than 1,000 students participate in this award-winning project each year under the direction of Mr. Guillot.

  1. Why does service learning work?
  2. How do you forge partnerships?
  3. What's the most important piece of advice you have for teachers?

1. Why does service learning work?

We train our kids for real life by bottling them up behind these huge fences and in the classroom for twelve years. Then we throw them out into the community and we say, 'OK, go out and be a productive citizen.' That's not the way to go out and do it.

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2. How do you forge partnerships?

You start forming some partnerships with some of your county people, your state people, and some of the federal people because they have goals that they need to meet through education. They need people to know what they're doing because they're publicly funded. They need people to care about what they're doing. So, hey, they're going to come in and they love it. They're like teachers. Low pay, but they have a huge heart because they really believe what they're doing can change the world. They'll come in and they'll put all that energy and expertise into your class.

After, you get some of those state agencies, put it all together and say, 'Look, we're going to need more funding for this. State agencies really can't spot funding. Let's go around and talk to some other people and show them what we're doing.' So, put together a little portfolio, not a scrapbook -- a scrapbook is everything. Put together a portfolio that describes exactly what you want them to see and say, 'Hey, look what my kids were doing.' Something that they can look at in ten minutes.

This one place, the first time I went there, they wouldn't even see me. They had one of those bank teller windows and they said, 'Can you drop off something and they'll call you.' So, I put this portfolio in there and I stuck the videotape in there and shoved it in. Three days later, somebody called me and said, 'That looks good. Can we meet in person?' So, the portfolio has to speak for itself. Highlight the things that you want them to see.

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3. What's the most important piece of advice you have for teachers?

The main thing that I want to get across to a teacher is, 'Don't limit yourself.' When you just sit there and look at the book, you're really limiting the possibilities. Is it going to take more work? It might take a phone call. In the long run, you're making things easier on you and better for your kids by bringing in all these experts to come in and talk.

The main thing that I would tell a new teacher is, 'Don't put limits on yourself,' because when you're doing that, you're really putting limits on your students' education. And if you can get out there and get some of these resources you're going to make things more fun for you and you're definitely going to make things more meaningful for your students.

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