What is a community partner, and why do I need one?
These are some features of a well-implemented PBE effort teachers can accomplish on their own:
- Cultivate student voice and involve students in decision-making
- Use appropriate, inquiry-based instructional strategies
- Use place and community as the basis for teaching and learning
Some features of a well-implemented PBE effort are very hard to do without meaningful community partnerships. These features are:
- Focus on real issues and needs in the community
- Deliver tangible benefits to the community through student work
- Create opportunities for students to discuss their work before authentic audiences, and to be heard
In addition to these features, students benefit from spending time with other experts during a school environment. These relationships increase students' exposure to potential careers (a recommendation of the NRC Framework and NGSS), develops their respect for other adult "teachers," and also tends to add a level of excitement to the project."Students need opportunities, with increasing sophistication across the grade levels, to consider not only the applications and implications of science and engineering in society but also the nature of the human endeavor of science and engineering themselves. They likewise need to develop an awareness of the careers made possible through scientific and engineering capabilities. " – NRC Framework (2012) pp. 238
Partners offer some amazing resources for your students and your school as well.
- Partners are experts in their field
- Frequently partners begin assisting schools with a level of content or theme-based knowledge that exceeds the teachers and the students. This expertise can provide valuable insight to students that you may not be able to without significant additional effort
- “Real-World” Access
- Partners can provide new experiences to students that show how your subject-area or topics apply to the world outside of a school environment.
- New perspectives
- Providing students the opportunity to see that people can disagree on an issue or topic is valuable. You might consider recruiting partners who would challenge students to think differently (in a safe, non-egressive way).
- New networks
- Partners typically come with other partners! These networks may include anything from support for field-based projects to funding for field-trips.
- Redefine teachers’ roles
- Empowering a partner to lead a lesson or a unit places the teacher in the role as a co-learner with students. This powerful experience helps students understand that learning is a life-long process and that their teacher has things to learn too!
The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative assists schools and teachers in developing community partnerships to implement place-based education. Their website showcases several case studies about projects involving strong partnerships. Click the logo to read about a project that required many partners to finish the work.
Read this downloadable PDF from Ferris State University provides an interesting perspective on the influence of school in helping students choose career pathways. These experts make a few recommendations related to partners and schooling:
- Schools should work to increase partnerships between educators and industry
- Educators should play a vital role in the process by which young adults make career decisions. K-12 schools, universities and employers can do much more to increase teachers’ exposure to different careers so that they help to advise students. The use of industry mentors, scholarships for targeted academic programs or career fields, adopt-a-school programs and more creative internship and work experiences serve as a few examples of how these partnerships can be enhanced.
One analogy that can be used for cultivating partnerships is gardening. Partnerships:
- Require effort up-front, but offer great rewards
- Take time to grow
- Take commitment and maintenance
The more you put into it, the more you get out of it, just like caring for a garden!
Types of Partnerships:
Fully collaborative forms of community partner involvement generate opportunities for teachers and students that likely would otherwise not be available, and exhibit characteristics of advanced collaborations, including shared decision-making and jointly established goals.
- Partners writing grants that include resources for student work in community
- Partners working with teachers to design PBE efforts that address authentic community stewardship needs within the partners’ specific organizational expertise
- Partners collaborating with teachers and students from beginning to end of PBE efforts in ways that draw upon their professional expertise in community or stewardship issues
- Partners using student-generated products to benefit the partners’ organizations or the broader community
Supportive partners are also valuable resources. They enhance the quality of stewardship experiences and learning but may not involve partners as equal cocreators with teachers and students.
- Partners working with teachers to identify community stewardship needs;
- Partners discussing environmentally related careers with students
- Partners disseminating student-generated products or communicating about student work to significant audiences
- Partners delivering a lesson
- Partners serving as a coach
Volunteer forms of community partner involvement address practical and financial barriers to PBE without significant roles for the partner in designing the effort or articulating its goals.
- Partners donating materials or funds
- Partners providing a site for student work
- Partners providing volunteer support in field-based studies
- Partners making an in-class presentation
- Partners assisting with student transportation or logistics
Take a moment to review the case-studies found here and determine the types of partnerships that existed within each project. You will find Community Partners will have varying levels of time and resources to work with schools, and there are benefits from having partners of all levels.
Remember that the best partnerships require a long-term commitment. Projects don’t evolve overnight. Finding the right fit takes time and everyone is more invested when they know they’re working together for permanent change. Lastly, think about the rich, rewarding experiences partnerships can offer your students. Schools that have fully collaborative or supporting forms of partnerships often report that their students have richer experiences because of them.
In the next lesson you will learn ways to begin and manage a community partnership.