The local school systems have traditionally been responsible to their respective communities. Educational facilities ranging from the small neighborhood schools to complex institutions of higher education have attempted to serve the needs of their communities in various ways. Educational governance, policy formulation, curricula, all recognize the importance of their community in the decision-making process. Likewise, the community is mindful of the role that the academic system can play in the community affairs and often utilizes the school resources. Mutual accountability, acceptance of each others boundaries, though they are often blurred, clearly confirm that the two institutions have a special and viable partnership.
Too often the educational and community partnership is often underdeveloped and tenuous. In most cases, the schools are left alone to pursue their academic efforts, and the community is viewed as a nebulous body that does not interfere with the schools except when involved in communal activities, such as using the school premises for entertainment purposes, and relying on the expertise of school personnel on specific issues and topics.
A community can have a profound effect on the students. It can address the affective needs of students, such as values, attitudes, and feelings which are equally as important in the overall development of the student. If students understand their community, they are in a better position to develop positive inclinations toward their environment. It is also more likely that students will be motivated to adopt an action-oriented stance in community matters.
The positive aspects of the community can play a very active role in the schools, and in this era of substance abuse moral neutrality, and individualism, students need as much support as possible. Moreover, in communities that have negative role models and members whose behavior is not desirable by community standards, perhaps the positive elements of the school and the community can align themselves to ameliorate and undermine those counter-productive forces, individuals, and practices, that distract students, and lower the community morale.
The organizing strategies used in this unit are:
1. Conceptual-inquiry teaching-learning model.
2. Interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional approaches.
3. Academic and field-experience strategies.
Thinking conceptually is important in the learning process. Categorizing is automatically part of the mental process involved in intellectual development. Research and observation reveal that young children are able to distinguish between phenomena based on contrasting attributes. Even when the names of the concepts are not known, students may know the characteristics of the concept. With the mind predisposed to grouping and categorizing, concept development can be taught and learned efficiently and systematically.
Concept teaching provides a chance to analyze the students’ thinking process and to help develop more effective learning strategies that can increase the ability to conceptualize and retain factual knowledge. This approach utilizes a variety of activities and materials of varying complexity. Concept teaching can be applied to any discipline, but is especially suited for certain subjects that allow for different interpretations and that do not easily lend themselves to closure benefit from concept-learning strategies, in that related concepts are linked together to present a unified “whole”, thus allowing relationships and associations to be clearly placed in perspective. Also, the fact that concepts transcends subject compartments, allow for multi-dimensional conceptualization from different disciplines.
An interdisciplinary approach is useful in unifying disciplines that are germane in examining community dynamics. Humanities, for instance, focus on the quality of life, science alerts community members to issues ranging from immunization requirements to the awareness of chemicals used in industrial technology. Mathematics is fundamental in local tax computations, measuring neighborhood distances, and scale drawings. History provides the basis for integrating the time elements and explaining how communities evolved.
The development of an integrative approach should take place also between processes. When students acquire knowledge about their community, and couple it with action-related behavior, a healthy and productive connection can result, which if properly channeled, can pay valuable dividends to the student and community at large. Through site visits, interviews with members of the community and other field activities, students will gain experience in managing situations that they repeatedly encounter in life. The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory comprehensively work with field-based educational projects succinctly summarizes the importance of the community in contributing to character development value clarification.
“Students’ interaction with adults in various community settings gives them a chance to reassess what they know about themselves, redefine future goals accordingly and develop the flexibility necessary to cope with the fact that not only are they entering a rapidly changing world but their self-concepts and goals will be changing as they grow and mature.
The most appropriate placement of a unit on community is in social studies course. The predominance of concepts such as ethnicity, acculturation, group behavior, history, clearly fall within the social science domain, in which social studies is a part of on the middle school level.
Geography, both cultural and physical are an integral part of social studies. Students acquire map-reading and other location skills, through understanding of geographical concepts such as parallels of latitude, meridians of longitude. Learning how to use map legions and calculating time in different time zones are practical skills that are useful in social studies and science. Geography learning aids, especially atlases allow students to learn where places are located and their relationship to other places.
The overall aim of this unit is to examine the idea of community using a concept teaching strategy. The three lessons also include multidisciplinary and field experience components.