Thursday, August 13, 2009

Community Service Learning in Latin America

by Ann Abbott

El Centro Latinoamericano de Aprendizaje y Servicio Solidario is a wonderful example of a service learning program in Latin America. Looking through their site, I am struck by how much our students can learn by analyzing the site and comparing their conceptualization and practice of community service learning (CSL) with ours.

I am struck by several things on the site.

Cultural meanings of words. "Solidario" and "solidaridad" are used frequently throughout the site. As a cognate, students will easily recognize the word. But culturally, solidarity and "solidaridad" feel very different to me.

Aprendizaje-Servicio. In Comunidades (my textbook), I use the term "aprendizaje en la comunidad." CLAYSS and a similar Chilean program I am aware of, both use the term "aprendizaje-comunidad." Obviously, we're talking about the same thing, but I wonder what we gain or lose by using the term "comunidad," or not.

International ties. In Comunidades I include an activity about cultural conceptions about geography and continents. (How many continents do you think there are? Did you know that not everyone would give the same answer?) I find the "Iberoamérica" concept intriguing as well as the way they have visually "mapped" the centers of "aprendizaje-servicio" to include some US institutions.

Definition. In a previous post, I suggested classroom activities to help students understand better the definition of community service learning. A great follow-up would be to have students then read CLAYSS's definition and compare/contrast the English-language and Spanish-language definitions. Of course, the terminology would stand out, but more importantly, is there any unique cultural touch in the definitions?

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