Content-Area Literacy

Service to School: Creating Connections, Creating Democratic Cultures—from The Activist Learner

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Author: Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Whitney Douglas, and Sara W. Fry

Summary: This sample chapter from The Activist Learner explores how the school itself can become a site for service learning. Two examples are discussed in detail: 1) engaging students in the process of documenting the school’s history; and 2) transforming school culture through a civic participation framework. A valuable resource for service learning curriculum design, this chapter also focuses on service learning as an important form of inquiry.

Original Date of Publication: November 1, 2014


In a world where global connections are rapidly increasing and knowledge is made and shared in public, online spaces, making a shift to writing and research practices that emphasize collaboration is invaluable, if not essential. When conducted in the service of school, research functions less as an isolated, individual, and grade-driven endeavor, and instead becomes a dynamic and communal literacy practice.
Student writers experience an authentic sense of audience when they create texts and knowledge artifacts that represent their work, that speak responsively to others and to rival hypotheses, as these can be shared with school officials, parents, peers, and the local community. Through sharing their work, students can also teach and incite peers in other classes and grades to consider ways in which they, too, can provide service to the school to create a healthy, vibrant environment. Such texts and artifacts are visible signs of accomplishment and proof positive of learning.

Related Resources

Original Source: National Writing Project,

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