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Community Service and Service Learning

Horace Mann School has a variety of programs that fall under the heading of Community Service, which is defined as volunteer service performed to benefit institutions and communities. Horace Mann has also recently begun to incorporate service-learning, a pedagogy and a movement that combines community service and action with education, often through curricular connections. Both community service and service-learning are compelling components of our commitment to nurturing the “great and giving lives” called for in our mission statement.

Each division of the school has a separate, active program in community service and/or service-learning that is developmentally appropriate to the students it serves. Students are encouraged to learn about themselves, develop concern for others, and grow intellectually, physically, and emotionally.

Program Description

Community Service in the Nursery Division is headed by a committee of the Horace Mann Parents Association that works closely with a faculty liaison. This is a project-based program that reflects varying interests of students, faculty, and parents from year to year. Recent projects include: coin drives to benefit the Promise Academy of the Harlem Children’s Zone, preparing and providing all the ingredients for stuffing and gravy for Thanksgiving meals at the Yorkville Pantry.

Community Service in the Lower Division is based upon the “bullseye” model: beginning with the self, broadening to the school and then the wider community, students progressively learn about caring and social responsibility. Activities and projects are designed and implemented by students, faculty, parents, and staff.

Recent activities included a shoe drive for Soles for Souls and the purchase of animals for Heifer International. Caring in Action Day is a valued tradition in the Lower Division. Parents, teachers and students work together to create meaningful projects such as painting children’s furniture to benefit the Riverdale Neighborhood House. In the fifth grade, students begin to advocate for important activities and causes by participating in the Speakers Bureau which makes Public Service Announcements to the Division.

The Service-Learning Program in the Middle Division provides students with the opportunity to perform service and to reflect on how they are affected by the act of performing service. Sixth and seventh graders participate in projects in their homerooms. Eighth graders must perform a set number of hours of service in projects sponsored by Horace Mann. Some of the projects occur during the school day, both on and off campus and others occur on weekends off campus.

In the Middle Division, Service-Learning projects help to build community among students and faculty members even as they provide help to others. Students complete reflection pieces after participating in service-learning activities, compiling service-learning portfolios that are required for graduation from the eighth grade. In addition to the service-learning requirement, the Service-Learning Program also coordinates grade-wide and division-wide service projects.

The Upper Division Community Service Program encourages students to broaden their experience of service, to help them develop skills, and to foster habits of responsible citizenship. The eighty-hour minimum requirement enables students to design individual projects under the guidance of the Office of Community Service. Forty of these hours must be completed in ninth and tenth grades, and forty in the eleventh and twelfth grades. Students are allowed to complete a maximum of 40 percent (or thirty-two) of these hours through in-school service.

In-school service activities are also varied and substantive. One example is the Peer Leader program sponsored by the Department of Counseling and Guidance. Eleventh and twelfth graders work in, and often lead, the weekly orientation classes taken by ninth graders in their first trimester. They receive training and support, including a weekend retreat in the spring of the previous year.

The Office of Community Service, which is staffed by a director and an assistant, acts as a clearinghouse for service opportunities, a central record-keeping bureau for service, and a sponsor of several large-scale service projects, including the Sanctuary for Families Holiday Dinner and the Achilles Kids for Kids Olympics. Other than these and several other organized opportunities, the choice and responsibility is left to the students to contact organizations and plan their individual participation.

Center for Community Values and Action

The Center for Community Values and Action, founded in 2006, takes a leading role in connecting Horace Mann to the wider community and in developing service-learning projects. The CCVA’s mission is “connecting education, ethics and action.” The CCVA accomplishes this mission by coordinating the Horace Mann All-School Service-Learning Day, a collaborative effort which has involved Horace Mann, the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, Van Cortlandt Park, Marble Hill Community Center and the Yale Day of Service. Students, parents, faculty members, and residents of the Kingsbridge Heights community work together in a variety of projects at all three locations. Highlights of the 2008 Service-Learning Day included the completion of an amphitheater and garden in the KHCC backyard, murals for KHCC and Van Cortlandt Park, and a collaborative mural with a local intermediate school and students from the Horace Mann Middle Division. A second All-School Service Learning Day took place in April of 2009 with wide community participation. The event is now scheduled annually.

The CCVA sponsors an Upper Division Service-Learning Team, in which students volunteer during trimesters when they do not have a sports commitment. The Team travels weekly to Kingsbridge Heights Community Center to work with the after-school program, which serves kindergarten through fifth graders. The Team also weekly meets for reflection, learning and planning.