Real and Relevant: a guide for service and project-based learning

Things are moving fast on the new edition of Real and Relevant: a guide for service and project based learning. This is an update to Change the World with Service Learning: How to organize, lead and assess service learning projects, published in 2011. The new edition will be released on June 30th, 2017 and is now available for pre-order in both hardback and paperback (or even better, ask for it at your local bookstore).

What’s new in this edition?

  • New chapters (on project based learning; my research on middle level service learning; Genius Hours and Makerspaces; and technology tools to support service and project-based learning.)
  • New foreword by the amazing Penny Bishop, researcher, author, professor, and Associate Dean of the School of College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont.
  • Updated and expanded resources (both at the end of each chapter and in the references).
  • New interviews with teachers and examples from the field throughout.

Here’s what two professors had to say about the new edition:

“With an intimate portrayal of her service learning experience, elementary teacher and teacher educator Katy Farber provides a hands–on guide for other teachers to take the plunge into service/project based learning. Her extensive practice and research allows for an up-to-date understanding of service/project based learning, so that teachers can engage students from grades 3-12 at the classroom, school and community level. As a teacher educator, I find this guide invaluable for introducing service/project based learning to my pre-service and practicing teachers.”

–James Nagle, Associate Professor, Saint Michael’s College; Co-Director, Middle Grades Collaborative

“This book is a tremendous resource for the 21st century progressive teacher. Offering a powerful balance of practical guidance and research-based examples, this new edition provides a comprehensive toolkit for service learning in the 21st century. The addition of new chapters devoted to technology, Makerspaces, and Genius Hours provides a compelling and timely illustration of the authentic ways in which service learning can work in conjunction with other contemporary movements in education.”

–Jessica DeMink-Carthew, Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Middle Level & Elementary Teacher Education, University of Vermont)

And how about the new cover? I hope it reflects the kind of deep student engagement and heart centered work I would love to inspire with this book.

I’ll be posting about giveaway opportunities shortly for June 30th, so please stay tuned. And if you are a professor or blogger interested in reviewing a copy of this book please contact me or Rowman Littlefield Publishers.

Support PE in Schools (good for health and learning)

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Imagine you are 11. Your body is being possessed. One minute, you are a kid, wanting your
stuffed animal at bedtime. The next minute, you are listening to the news and worrying about Russians taking over our elections. Your body, it’s antsy. It is changing fast. Your life is full of activities, confusing social dynamics, and people telling you what to do, and when.

Then you get to PE.

PE, for many kids, is the release valve. It is where they can move their bodies and shake off the math lesson, the cruel joke, or the latest test. PE can also be where they gain confidence, learn how to take care of their bodies, and where they learn how to play with other kids.

image from http://wenatchee.innersync.com/col/

As a teacher, I saw how different students acted on days with and without a PE class. Aside from the occasional post PE argument about who won, students came back to class with bodies and minds ready to settle back into learning.  The days with no PE, or the worst, indoor recess?

No so much.

A brain needs movement breaks. With a packed curriculum, standardized testing,  and increasing pressures, this can be hard for the teacher to provide. That is why recess and PE classes are so critical.

Research shows kids need 60 minutes of physical activity per day and PE programs help our kids get to this minimum for their health and wellbeing. PE addresses the needs of the whole child, positively impacting their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Here’s the problem: Only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. How does that impact student learning, wellbeing, and their overall health?  According to a report by University of Texas School of Public Health, kids need PE to be treated like a core subject like math or literacy: Continue reading

Author School Visit: Proctor Elementary (The Order of the Trees)

IMG_1276Oh, do I love visiting schools.

One of my favorite times of day as a teacher was the lively and interactive read aloud time. Some of the best conversations, moments, and connections happened during this time. Books sing. Issues arise. Students gasp, shudder, laugh, and beg you not. to. stop. reading!

Luckily, I had the chance to go visit the 5th grade class at Proctor Elementary School last week. They had been reading The Order of the Trees (Green Writers Press, 2015) and were excited to have me visit and read to them, to talk about books, and writing.

IMG_1278First, I showed them my journal. It’s the place I draw, make lists, ramble, write poems, whatever. But sometimes, a little gem gets dropped in the journal, and it becomes the seed of an idea. The Order of the Trees started this way. My new picture book, out this fall with Green Writers Press, called Salamander Sky, started that way too. They leaned in to look at the pages.

We talked about what they were reading, and about how ideas are important. I told them that the world often tells them NO! That is not a good idea. But if they believe in it– to keep trying. Honor your ideas. They are true and important and matter.


Next, I got to read a juicy scene to them from the book, filled with some classroom drama. I love playing the nasty Mrs. Doneaway, the teacher whose heels click, click, click on the classroom floor as she walks up to you, ready to call you out in front of the whole class.

IMG_1282The class had tremendous ideas about what I should write next. A sequel to The Order of the Trees, where Cedar is all grown up, and the story is about what happens to her daughter. Or, a novel that finally tells the story of how a baby appeared under a giant Cedar tree in the Northern Vermont forest. They were brilliant and I left with my head full of ideas

It’s hard to tell who had more fun.