Debbie Lerner teaches a class of first-, second-, and third-graders at the Red Bridge Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri. Located in a suburban bedroom community that was established in the 1950s, the school serves an increasingly diverse population on the outskirts of Kansas City. The school's multiage class structure was modeled after the open classroom style of the World War II-era British Infant Schools, and follows the philosophy that learning expands with a variety of classroom experiences.
Ms. Lerner's students began the year by examining the concept of rules: in the home, the classroom, the community, our country, and the world. Using this thematic approach, Ms. Lerner taught first-graders the basic concept of rules -- such as what they are and why we have them -- while challenging third-graders with more complex ideas -- such as how rules differ from one household/classroom/community/country to another. After the unit on rules, the class went on to examine citizenship, and then to explore different cultures and traditions in a unit on holidays.
"Caring for the Community" fell within a unit on service learning. By the time Ms. Lerner's class started the lesson, they had already completed units on community and the built environment. Ms. Lerner expected her students to be able to explain what makes up a community, identify different kinds of communities, and understand what it means to be part of a community. She then used the proposed remodeling of Red Bridge Elementary School to teach students about the wide range of needs in their own community, the resources that are available to meet those needs, and the procedures that must be followed in allocating the resources. Most importantly, she used the remodeling project to help them discover what they could do to make a difference in their community.
Lesson Background >>