Service Learning at Salem Academy Charter School
A central component of Salem Academy’s mission is service learning. Service learning provides an opportunity for students to apply their academic learning to fieldwork in service to Salem and the greater community. The school collaborates with many local and national or international organizations in order to facilitate these experiences.
The service learning component of our curriculum is guided by three general goals: to promote students’ academic success by granting them opportunities to apply their learning to the real-life context of their community; to train students to serve as civic participants and community leaders both today and in the future; and to add resources and capacity to the betterment of Salem’s (as well as the greater community’s) historical, cultural, and natural resources.
In the First Form (grade 6), all incoming students begin the year focusing on the question “What is service?” which orients them to service learning at Salem Academy. They learn what service is, how they can be of service, and about difference types of service. All of these questions are asked in the context of a grade-level theme (food and hunger insecurity). The students learn about Salem Academy’s Five Step Process and apply it to exploring the theme of food and hunger insecurity. Teachers integrate the theme into their courses and use academic benchmarks which support the group’s service.
In the Second Form (grades 7 and 8), each grade focuses on a particulate theme/issue. Teachers work together to integrate concepts and skills into their classrooms and to lead activities with students during designated service learning time. Teachers expose students to different types of direct service and facilitate students in identifying actions based on community needs which they address through the Five Step Process.
As students get older, the primary goal of service learning is to integrate academics with service in the community. In Third Form (grades 9 and 10), students select from short course offerings (one quarter or semester in length) on issues in the community (e.g., nutrition, literacy) and engage in an intensive study of each issue, practicing the research, writing and planning skills that they will need for their Final Form thesis and project. Teachers work independently to craft short courses for students.
Eleventh graders choose an area of focus for service. They apply the academic skills and the knowledge that they have learned at Salem Academy to research and write their Final Form Service Thesis. They write the thesis and create a service plan to carry out prior to graduation.
Seniors in Final Form follow up their research and planning in grade eleven with service in the community. Grade 12 students are expected to spend 30 hours engaged in service. Their service hours are logged with their faculty director and documented. Students must engage in direct or indirect service, advocacy and show leadership in service of their cause.