North Jr. High Students Create Interactive Service Learning Project for Highlands Elementary 4th Graders

(Boise) –  A service learning grant from the Foundation assisted students from North Junior High School in creating an interactive service project to be implemented at Highlands Elementary with 4th graders. The intent of the service project was to develop cultural, linguistic and geographic knowledge of Ecuador, and to identify specific challenges the nation faces with regard to natural hazards. The 4th grade students then implemented the same interactive program with Highlands 2nd graders. The outcome was twofold: increased knowledge and cultural fluency of a key US ally and Latin American nation; identifying local groups that work with displaced people and engaging in service projects to benefit the local agencies. 

The grant award allowed the development of an interactive game based geography lesson on the cultures, foods, physical geography and climate of Ecuador. Students created projects with their AP Human Geography Class instructor, Elizabeth Caughlin after school over the course of several weeks. The day of implementation became serendipitously because District buses were not available for transportation, therefore students traveled by public bus to Highlands learning how most of the world uses transportation. Students at Highlands engaged in the various game stations and created notebooks to reflect their new knowledge of Ecuador.

According to Mrs. Caughlin, “The strength of the project depended on the person involved in its implementation. For some, the strength was learning how to use public transportation in the community. For those most involved in the creation of the stations, the strengths were several: fostering a sense of community in the creation of the stations, researching and creating the models, puzzles and games used to teach younger students about Ecuador, and applying knowledge of Ecuador to a deeper understanding of the variety of ways political, social and economic ideals can be expressed in a country. Furthermore, students gained real life opportunities to practice and use Spanish when they traveled to Ecuador, in an extension of the project over Spring Break.”

Students then raised money to fly to Ecuador for their service project to foster both love of foreign language acquisition and development of global citizenship. The project not only led to the experience of a lifetime for the 27 students, but Mother Nature had a hand in their experience as well. Violent thunderstorms in Atlanta prolonged their trip home and they were stuck in Ecuador for longer than anticipated.  Bill Roberts, Idaho Statements writer chronicled the journey in his April 12, 2017 article, “Stuck in Ecuador: Canceled flight led 27 Boise student to adventure — and Justin Bieber”.

To see more photos of their experience, click here.