Community-Based Learning: Connecting Students With Their World (Transcript)
Matt: Seventy-five percent of last year's graduating class participated in community-based learning. It's not required, it's not anything that they have to do for graduation, but I think the numbers speak for themselves, an important quality of living is to be curious. Students have an opportunity to take the community-based learning program, and that encompasses a number of elements, including internships. They enter into a discussion with myself or my two colleagues about some of their interests, which they may have already developed and they're walking through the door with like, hey I'm really interested in, international affairs, how can I access that sort of curiosity in the small town of Montpelier? And so we just begin a dialogue about what that would look like, why they're interested in that. And I think that that discussion, on the front end, helps craft the right experience, with the right mentor and the right pieces of any sort of internship.
Adam: We're trying to break down this idea that learning is contained in a classroom for some reason.
Rachel: So I went to Matt McLane around Thanksgiving and I was like Matt, I want to do something fraud prevention and he goes, you what? And we found DFR, the Department of Financial Regulation.
Sarah: We were thrilled to get her, not only is she just a real go-getter but she gives us a really valuable perspective from young people, which we are missing around here.
Rachel: I really like having the chance to actually learn things hands-on and not just be in a classroom. In the first few weeks I just got a kind of taste of what everyone does, I shadowed a bunch of different people, and then I settled in on, my project that I'm working on now.
Understanding credit cards and loans, identify theft and then sort of a pretext.
I am creating an app that is going to teach the basics of financial literacy.
Sarah: Yeah, and maybe it would be cool to have some like interaction in there so you don't see it all at once and you actually have...
Sarah: ...to like dig deeper.
Matt: On the front end there's a number of different pieces that the students are expected to do. A letter of interest, cover letter certainly is an expectation, it's just a way to say I'm interested in your work. And then there's kind of interpersonal oral communication in the site interview. They're meeting with the community partner, not only to learn about what the site possibilities are, but to figure out is it the right fit.
Garrett: I'm not quite sure yet of what I want to do after high school, but I have been looking into the whole forestry business. I do my internship twice a week.
Marc: We try to have him do a little bit of hands-on on all the different aspects that we do here, from the very beginning, to the correspondence with the client, to the end with the kiln.
Garrett: He's taught me all about the different ways to calculate and measure the pricing and the different species.
Marc: When you have to stop and you explain to somebody versus doing it repetitively, you get a whole different feel of what actually you are doing. So it's been a good experience for me.
Sarah: The main thing that we wanted to make sure that we helped accommodate was the learning goals, so it was a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Adam: We have seven learning expectations in this school. We focus on reading, writing, communication, problem solving, habits of learning, creativity, and citizenship.
Rachel: We have to pick one or two and be like, this is how I'm going to fulfill this, and then prove that at the end.
Adam: So it's not just a cool experience, there's that really kind of clear connection between what they're doing and the values that the school community has. And many of the projects that they do are developed in conjunction with their community partner. And we want to honor all those possibilities for students in terms of what the product is. The end product, from the school's end, could be a reflective paper that incorporates a lot of the pieces that they observed or took part in, so awareness certainly could be an end product.
Matt: What I'm not willing to do is to allow students to not think about their experience. And so we're realizing, with 60 to 70 students who are independently working out in the community, that it's important to bring them together so that they have some sort of reflective cohesion. The seminars are small groups that come together once a month to connect up with each other and to kind of talk about their experiences. It's also a really practical time for them to develop their resume, write a thank you letter. We have an evaluation that we share with community partners and it identifies areas that a lot of employment evaluations would involve, persistence, responsibility, attention to detail. It's a way for us to align our learning expectations with real life employer expectations. Throughout the experience my role is to really help students to say why did you approach it that way? What is it that motivated you to either go after it or to really retract from your enthusiasm for it?
Rachel: I want to help people and I feel like working with financial regulation and fraud prevention can help the whole of the country.
Garrett: Doing this internship is a commitment and I'm devoted to doing that. I've actually been looking at colleges in the forestry program.