Without the Academically-Based Service Learning (ABSL) component of EDU 366, the class would not have been complete. Entitled Contexts of the Urban School, it seems only natural that students would have the opportunity not only to observe but also to interact with schools in actual urban contexts. This credit-bearing experience allowed undergraduate students of varying disciplines to experience and better understand the realities of the American public education system in an urban setting.
Born out of a pre-existing relationship between Professor Melissa Winchell and the Lynn Classical High School (LCHS), the ABSL component was student-designed and implemented over a semester-long period while Gordon students developed real relationships with an LCHS class of English as a Second Language (ESL) Students made up of "newcomer" immigrant students. Professor Winchell stressed the importance of reciprocity in relationships between these two student groups, and every Gordon student professed a deep sense of understanding that while their time was of service to the LCHS student, they had much more to learn from the experience than to teach in the classroom.
Five meetings with the LCHS class ended with a culminating celebration and a morning-long college visit where the high schoolers and two faculty members visited Gordon and asked questions, took a mini-class, and toured the campus. Prior to the visit, Gordon students worked in small groups with LCHS students to discuss their academic and career goals, talk about the college application process, and lead students through a college-search.
While reciprocation was felt throughout the experience, perhaps the most evident and beautiful example of this was an unexpected party the LCHS students threw for their Gordon "mentors," where they woke up early before school and got together to prepare traditional food from their home countries. When Gordon students arrived in Lynn that day, they got a taste of culture as well as tradition- experiencing a sense of hospitality that would have been otherwise overlooked.
Contexts of the Urban Schools accomplished many syllabus objectives, but most importantly allowed Gordon students to re-evaluate their deep-set stereotypes of urban schools and experience true growth and relationship with a neighboring community. This would not have been possible in a basement classroom on Gordon's campus, but was a realized through hands-on experiential learning that came with just a few steps out of the comfort zone. By drawing on the assets and strengths of the LCHS community, nine high school students became valuable teachers to Gordon students.