National Center for Learning and Citizenship at ECS
700 Broadway, Suite 810
Denver, CO 80203-3442
Associate Policy Analyst
Asst. Editor/Administrative Asst.
Visit the Park Forest Elementary School website
Park Forest Elementary participated in the Schools of Success Showcase in Nashville, Tennessee, May 4-7, 2011. View their presentation (PDF, 1.2MB).
Park Forest Elementary has a long-term commitment to the development of its students as concerned and involved citizens within a democracy. The largest elementary school in the State College Area School District, Park Forest has a diverse student population. It has the distinction of having met requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind for the past five years. Authentic service-learning spirals throughout the kindergarten through 5th-grade curricula.
Students at Park Forest Elementary are involved in numerous service-learning activities throughout the school year. Examples include: Earth Force, PAWS Project, Operation Caring Classroom, Lunchroom Dilemma Committee, All-School Composting, Pennies for Puppies and The Schoolyard Project. All of these activities directly tie into the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science, Reading, Writing, Communications, Social Studies and Mathematics. They foster the development of lifelong citizenship skills and provide the opportunity to practice being an engaged citizen utilizing 21st century skills.
With very few elementary professional development days provided in the district's calendar, much of the work is done informally or within the context of the school day. Park Forest Elementary staff members have found creative ways to develop and build their professional learning community and to challenge themselves to grow in the directions of their school's goals. During the 2009-10 school year, a pilot group of volunteer teachers was involved in individualized, self-directed professional development, revising their curriculum using their Schoolyard Project as an integrating context for learning while meeting the standards. Other teachers — invigorated by their enthusiasm, energy and excitement — expressed an interest in similar professional development during the next year.
Successful school-community partnerships start with a personal contact, so Forest Park Elementary students write scripts to call community resources and write follow-up letters and thank you letters to partners. Not only does this personalize the project, but the community resource is able to identify exactly whom they are helping. Students learn valuable social skills as they prepare to and follow through with contacting the community resource. As enthusiasm builds, interest from other teachers and students grows, increasing awareness of the project in the school and community.
Park Forest Elementary has a history of advocacy to positively encourage others to empower students to think and act upon their initiatives. They anticipate that their students will engage with like-minded students and schools with similar goals to further understanding and implementation of service-learning. Additionally, they look forward to influencing district-wide initiatives by providing leadership and support and to sharing and learning from other schools in the Network.