Service Learning Program Connects with Community
The link between classroom education and its application to solving problems becomes evident through service learning projects. Key elements of effective service learning programs include needs assessment, meaningful service, structured reflection, celebration and recognition, and evaluation.
Mt. Scott Learning Center (MSLC) strives to connect students with their local communities. Our goal is to foster a variety of academic skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication and teamwork in an integrated setting.
During the course of the year, students engage in a variety of service projects within their local community. Our program will allow for additional opportunities to mentor youth, engage senior citizens in our program, address environmental issues, and explore yet undetermined needs within our community.
All MSLC high school student groups have participated in regular service projects. Below is a sampling of our current and previous service project partners.
OAKS BOTTOM WILDLIFE REFUGE
A group of MSLC students are involved in a year-long series of service projects to help preserve a natural wetland in the heart of Portland. The students are participating in trail maintenance, amphibian monitoring, and invasive plant removal at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, a 140-acre floodplain wetland located along the east bank of the Willamette River.
MSLC works in cooperation with The Friends of Oaks Bottom, a volunteer organization of interested citizens working in partnership with City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and Portland Parks & Recreation for the promotion, preservation, and management of Oaks Bottom. This area is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Hawks, quail, pintails, mallards, coots, woodpeckers, kestrels and widgeons are just the start of the list of birds that one might encounter in Oaks Bottom. The star of the show, though, is the blue heron, the official bird of the City of Portland. Oaks Bottom is one of the favorite places for these impressive birds because of its proximity to one of the rookeries on Ross Island.
Kateri Park is an affordable housing community run by Catholic Charities in southeast Portland where more than half of the residents are refugees from countries such as Somalia, Burma and Nepal. MSLC students visit the preschool and spend time building relationships with young students through song, playtime and arts and crafts. This partnership has fostered an intercultural dialogue, as well as mentorship opportunities for MSLC students.
In an ongoing service project, MSLC students partner with elders at Sellwood Landing, a retirement community operated by Emeritus in southeast Portland.
Each month, students work with “adopted grandparents” to develop relationships and cross-generational learning. In the spring and fall, students plant, then harvest a resident-maintained vegetable garden and flower boxes. In other months, students create holiday crafts, centerpieces for meals, bake cookies and play games with the residents. Through this sharing, students are able to learn about the world and cultures around them through the lens of past generations.
THE REBUILDING CENTER
A group of MSLC students have provided regular monthly service at The Rebuilding Center, the nation’s largest non-profit reuse center for salvaged construction and remodeling materials.
Founded by volunteers in 1998, The ReBuilding Center has become a recognized leader in Oregon and the world for diverting waste for reuse and recycling in a way that maximizes the social, environmental, and economic benefits to the community. The ReBuilding Center currently diverts eight tons of reusable building materials from landfills each day (almost six million pounds annually).
Student volunteers assist the center in many ways, including carrying donated building materials into the warehouse, sorting materials (trim, lumber, electrical supplies, lighting), sweeping, measuring doors and helping in the administrative office.
MSLC has joined the growing list of organizations supporting and benefitting from Free Geek, the popular Portland non-profit organization that recycles used technology.
A group of MSLC students and staff volunteer regularly at Free Geek to support the organization’s mission of providing computers, education, Internet access and job skills training to those in need. Free Geek was founded in 2000 to recycle computer technology and provide low and no-cost computing to individuals and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world. In the years since its formation, Free Geek has recycled over 1,500 tons of electronic scrap and refurbished over 15,000 computer systems that are now in use by individuals and organizations in the community.
At Free Geek, MSLC students work primarily in the recycling department, disassembling computers and small electronics and separating the materials for recycling. Many students are participating in the adoption program, which allows the students to earn a free computer after 24 hours of volunteering.
STORE TO DOOR
Students in this service group travel to NW Portland to work with Store to Door. Store to Door is a non-profit agency devoted to facilitating independent living for seniors and people living with disabilities. The agency provides a low-cost, personalized grocery shopping and delivery service.
Store to Door volunteers make contact with elderly clients, take weekly food and prescription orders, and then shop for and deliver these orders to the clients’ homes. The service not only provides the much-needed grocery service, but also provides weekly social and health check-ins for these often isolated clients. Store to Door is well connected with community resources that provide elderly support, and regularly connects its clients to Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services.
Additionally, MSLC students in this service group volunteer at the Oregon Food Bank, a non-profit agency that collects and distributes food to families in need throughout the state. Students sort and pack food into boxes that are distributed to soup kitchens and hunger centers across Oregon.
FOSTER-POWELL CLEANUP PROJECTS
MSLC is nestled near southeast Foster and Powell boulevards, where students have an opportunity to be a service to the community and the businesses striving to support the neighborhood’s local economy.
Projects in this service learning group vary throughout the year in accordance with the needs of the local business association, community and school. Typically, projects may include litter removal of surrounding parks, manual labor for businesses, and general cleaning of public spaces. Students also perform landscaping at the school, trash removal and washing down public spaces.
OUR HOUSE OF PORTLAND
Our House of Portland provides healthcare, housing, and other vital services to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. Through a variety of locations, Our House is able to provide respite and comfort to those living with a complex and challenging disease.
MSLC students have traveled to the Swan House in Milwaukie, which is a home that cares for five people with limited resources living with HIV/AIDS. The home provides assistance with personal care, meals, mobility and transportation. Students had an opportunity to meet the staff and provide support by mopping floors, power washing the yard, washing windows, scrubbing toilets, cleaning fish tanks, baking cookies and prepping sandwiches. Students felt free to ask questions of the community while investing their time and energy in the tasks at hand. Through this community outreach, students learned more about a unique lifestyle and health experience while pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. Experiences like these are invaluable to our students’ development as young people, and to their sense of social responsibility.
At Zenger Farm, a non-profit farm and wetland in SE Portland, MSLC students participate in service learning activities that include team work, physical labor and critical thinking.
Zenger Farm is dedicated to promoting sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship and local economic development through a working urban farm. Friends of Zenger Farm utilize the combination of a 10-acre wetland adjacent to the 6-acre organic farming operation to provide unique experiential learning opportunities for youth, farmers and families in subjects such as sustainable agriculture, wetland ecology, food security, healthy eating and local economic development.