At Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, service to others is a core element of the students’ educational and spiritual experience. Unique in its approach, NFA’s comprehensive Service Learning curriculum is fully integrated into the Academy’s curriculum. Developed in 2001 by NFA staff and advisors, Service Learning empowers students of all ages to impact the lives of others and the earth while developing sensitivity towards others and an awareness of social injustice. Our Service Learning Program flows directly from the Vision and Mission of Norwood-Fontbonne Academy and makes visible the lived expression of the Vision and Mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, “We live and work so that all people may be united with God and one another.”
NFA’s Service Learning is a comprehensive program of preparation, action, and reflection where students live Gospel values by meeting the needs of others and our earth. Preparation involves teachers presenting materials to raise consciousness, guest speakers from Service Learning sites providing further awareness, and students engaging in role playing as they review behavioral protocol. Then students travel to their service learning site where they engage in meaningful activity. After their visit, students reflect upon and respond to their experiences through a variety of integrated projects and presentations. As they actively process the “meaning” of their service learning experiences, students develop a raised social consciousness and a life-long commitment to personal and social justice. Service Learning presents opportunities to form and build relationships with persons students may not typically encounter. NFA students learn to appreciate, embrace, and honor the experiences of others.
Each of our service sites engages our students in service with various populations and focuses on unique justice issues. The core of our Service Learning curriculum is Catholic Social Teaching and the emphasis on the rights of all and our responsibility to ensure these rights. During the 2011-2012 school year, our Service Learning expanded to include earth and other creatures of earth. This reflects the expansion being lived by the Sisters of Saint Joseph especially as they have established their Earth Center. http://www.ssjphila.org/sponsoredworks.html
Grade level Service Learning
The Junior Level Montessori classes rotate every year and two of the three go to the Schuylkill Center Farm each year. This service site is an exciting opportunity for our students to learn about the importance of agriculture and proper care for the earth and how it affects us as humans. Within the curriculum they also learn about the importance of good food and the lack of access that many have for healthy food. Their actual service includes a visit to the farm where they help with some of the daily tasks that are necessary for upkeep. The third JLM class visits the Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf where they learn about the specific needs of individuals who are deaf. This exploration allows our students to be aware of differences and be more sensitive to them.
First graders focus on sensitivity to the elderly and culminate their learning by visiting senior sisters at their mentor site, Saint Joseph Villa. Before the trip, they learn about aging and the importance of care for the elderly. The visit to the Villa involves students being paired with Sisters and they share their time reading stories and getting to know each other.
Second grade work with a Schuylkill Center sponsored site, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. Here they learn about the importance of care for animals and the impact animals have on the ecosystem. The service component involves collecting some items that are needed at the Clinic in order to better care for the animals. An additional component includes a visit to Norwood-Fontbonne Academy by the educators at the Rehabilitation Clinic with some animal friends!
Third and fourth grades travel to Our Lady of Confidence School where they focus on sensitivity to children with special needs. Our Lady of Confidence is a school for children with developmental disabilities. Third and Fourth graders work with the students during their gym class and participate in various physical activities and games.
In the fifth grade our students provide their service at The DePaul Catholic School in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. Students work with second graders at DePaul Catholic School and do various activities, including some worksheets and games, during their time there. Our students reflect primarily about the importance of access to a good education and its impact on individuals.
Sixth graders gain new understandings about the effects of aging on individuals as they partner with the Artman Home. Staff members from the Artman Home visit NFA before the trip and do some wonderful interactive activities with students that increases their awareness of what it is like to age. The trip itself involves visiting with the residents at the Artman home.
“For the first time in my life instead of showing pity, I was able to show compassion in my service to the men. I really loved my time at St. John’s Hospice and I would go back tomorrow if I could.” – Devon
Seventh grade focuses on sensitivity to hunger and homelessness and visits Saint John’s Hospice, a center city shelter that provides housing for homeless men and provides hot lunches during the week to men living on the streets. Saint John’s Hospice affords students the opportunity to tour the facility, dine with the residents, and then assist in serving lunch to residents. Through service at St. John’s students are challenged to confront their stereotypes about the homeless and those who are poor.
“I had my lunch, jacket and was on the bus heading for Camden. I only needed three things for service: the third, an open heart for those with whom we were going to work. I was nervous that morning. Maybe it was the cold, but I was shivering, anticipating my visit to Holy Name Camden.” – Edward
The Eighth grade students are called to new sensitivity to today’s immigrants and English Language Learners (ELL.) Their mentor site is Our Lady of Guadalupe Family Services and Holy Name School, in Camden, NJ. Eighth grade students are partnered with first grade students from Holy Name and they work on a various worksheets and as time permits will do a craft and play games with students. A shared lunch and recess are also a part of the visit.
Service Learning includes one visit in the Fall and one in the Spring.