Monday, September 29, 2008

Building Spanish Community-based Learning Programs from Scratch

One of our recent grads, Nacho Alvarez, got a job in a university in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The university is very interested in service, and the community has a large Latino population. Perfect for building a Spanish community-based learning program!

Unfortunately, Nacho didn't have a chance to teach "Spanish in the Community" while he was a grad student at the University of Illinois, so he wrote to ask about how to set up partnerhips, build a program, etc. I told him the basics:

1. Our students spend two hours a week in class and two hours a week (for a total of 28 hours) in the community.

2. If he wanted to use my teaching materials, to let me know. They're available through Xanedu.

Then Marcos (my wonderful RA this year) replied with more details about setting up partnerships. Since I think more and more of our grad students will be asked to do this kind of thing, I'm copying Marcos's reply here. It's good advice for anyone starting from scratch to build mutually beneficial partnerships for community-based learning.

"Hola Nacho.

:The first thing I would consider is analyzing your own goals in establishing a partnership between the community partners and the college.What are the needs of the community? What are the needs of the students? What kind of volunteer work is needed and/or available for the Hispanic community that your students can perform? etc..

"I would try to get a list of possible places where they work with the Hispanic community: for instance, Ann has created partnerships with schools, but also with the Refugee Center in Urbana, the Girl and Boy Scouts, the Child Care Resource Center on campus, etc...One of my students started this semester at La Prensa as well, the CU newspaper in Spanish. You can try to research a little about possible places before the meeting, and ask them further questions then. I.e. Try to check if there are schools in the area with ESL or bilingual classes with a good amount of Spanish-speaking students, etc...

"I suggest you start with one or two partners only. Once you get information about those places, you could establish how a course would work and present to the college/department a draft with the partnership, course objectives, responsibilities of students, etc...highlighting the connections between the curriculum and academic content of the course with the volunteer work with the community.

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