Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools

Unit of 17 Lessons
Grade Levels: 
5
Subjects: 
Language Arts
Philanthropy
Social-Emotional Learning
Social Studies
Health and PE
Mathematics
Issue Area: 
Civil society
Focus Question 
  • How can I make a difference in my community?
  • What does it mean to be a member of an effective team?
  • How do I respond with empathy to other human beings?

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty at Westminster

Unit Overview 

Urban EdVenture is a yearlong service-learning course for all students in the 5th grade. The course goals are to allow students to experience active citizenship and leadership; to empower them as agents of change in their community; and to provide them with a basic understanding of philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and the needs of their community.

Lessons are divided into three distinct categories: philanthropy, leadership and teamwork, and the final project. Yet, the course experience is interconnected and scaffolded. For instance, clear communication skills that were the focus during teamwork activities are highly useful as students form working teams and when they listen to community partners during the final project phase. Similarly, the early philanthropy lessons guide students when they need to choose an issue and organization for their projects.

Experiential teaching methods help students understand complex concepts such as scarcity and abundance of resources, seeing issues from a variety of perspectives, and barriers that exist for certain populations. For instance, all students participate in a learning opportunity facilitated by the Atlanta Community Food Bank in which they learn about the local impacts of poverty and hunger. Participating in a variety of activities gives a broad perspective of the community's philanthropic work and helps students identify personal areas of interest. 

The course was designed to meet weekly for 70 minutes. Students participate as homeroom cohorts and are taught by course faculty with homeroom teachers’ involvement during the final project. This course is easily modified for grades 5-8. Urban EdVenture was created in 2005 by Leitzel Schoen under the umbrella of the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Institute for Philanthropy and Service Learning at The Westminster Schools. This curriculum was written by the Urban EdVenture faculty Stacy Chalmers, Meghan James, Emily Horne, Becky McKnight, and Nash Sultan. For questions, the Urban Ed contact is Stacy Chalmers at stacychalmers@westminster.net

Before teaching the course, take this educator mini-course that prepares the educator for teaching and leading Urban EdVenture: Teaching Urban EdVenture: A Fifth-Grade Service-Learning Course

Learning Goals:

Social-Emotional Learning and Leadership

  • Recognize membership in multiple communities
  • Explore the impact of community membership on the individual
  • Identify the ways in which community members are responsible to the community
  • Develop the 4 Cs of an effective team member – communication, commitment, collaboration and care
  • Explore the qualities of positive leadership and participate as a leader in the school community
  • Practice conflict resolution and consensus building

Philanthropy

  • Identify the role of philanthropic organizations in the community
  • Participate in need finding within a community
  • Utilize the basic vocabulary of philanthropy
  • Begin to self-identify as a “change agent”
  • Examine various ways of serving in a community
  • Advocate for a cause or organization within the school community
  • Write a mini-grant to fund a class-designed philanthropic endeavor

Faculty Background:

Urban EdVenture teachers should be engaged citizens with a personal commitment to service. It is helpful to have training in experiential education. They will need at least a basic understanding of: philanthropy’s role in American society; the local nonprofit landscape; best practices in service learning; qualities of an effective team; and social issues. Learning to Give provides an online educator mini-course as an introduction to teaching Urban EdVenture. Recommended readings for faculty before teaching philanthropy lessons include:

  • K-12 Service Learning Standards for Quality Practice.  St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council, 2008. Available at http://nylc.org/standards/
  • Payton, Robert L. and Moody, Michael P. "Voluntary Action For The Public Good.” Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission, chapter 1. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.
  • Connecting Service-Learning to the Curriculum: A Workbook for Teachers and Administrators. Los Angeles, CA: Community Works Institute.
  • Kaye, Cathryn Berger. The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action, second edition.  Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 2010.
Service Experience 
The service project is the capstone of student learning in this course and it is determined, designed, and carried out by the class. In this project, each class establishes a partnership with a nonprofit organization and works with that organization to determine the best way the class can serve. Partners and classes connect through phone calls, email, video conferencing, and site visits. The project culminates with three days of immersion into the community they serve, including a full-day hands-on service opportunity, a full day of project work on campus, and an on-campus event open to the public in which students share their work and advocate for their partner organization or cause.
Lessons in This Unit 
Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 4 of 17
Grades: 
5

Students often have a difficult time distinguishing between acts of kindness and acts of philanthropy. Using the class-generated definition of philanthropy from the “Defining Philanthropy” lesson, students will examine various situations and decide which ones are acts of philanthropy. Students will also discover that empathy is at the heart of both actions.  

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 6 of 17
Grades: 
5

Students will play a matching game on teams to expose them to or reinforce their familiarity with many of the terms associated with philanthropy.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 8 of 17
Grades: 
5

To have students partner with a nonprofit organization to design and complete a service-learning project for that organization. 

In the third trimester of the Urban EdVenture course, students begin work on the final project in collaboration with their homeroom teachers. Each class establishes a partnership with a nonprofit organization and works with that organization to determine the best way the class can serve. Partners and classes connect with one another through phone calls, emails, video conferencing, and site visits. The project culminates with a day-long hands-on service opportunity, a full day of project work on campus, and an on-campus event open to the public in which students share their work while advocating for their partner organization or cause.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty at Westminster

Subjects 
Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 9 of 17
Grades: 
5

To have students identify the things that are important in their lives as a means of finding a “passion” or “passions” the class holds in common. Students will then identify causes that deal with an issue related to their shared passion. This will guide the teacher in selecting and promoting potential community partners for the Urban EdVenture Final Project.

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 11 of 17
Grades: 
5

To work on communication and listening skills while designing and building simple objects. To think about the power of words and how difficult it can be to get their message across to another person without it being lost in translation.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 12 of 17
Grades: 
5

To work together, see the big picture, and think about the connection between individuals in the group as students participate in the activity.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 13 of 17
Grades: 
5

To focus on sharing ideas, creating and following through on a plan, and being responsible for one’s role in a group. In addition, River Crossing can have multiple rounds to draw out or focus on key terms. This activity is often used to help frame the ideas around planning a service learning project.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 14 of 17
Grades: 
5

To accomplish a goal together through the use of teamwork skills, problem solving, risk taking and perseverance.

Turnstile is a problem solving activity that gets many students out of their comfort zone. Although it looks like a simple jump rope activity at first, students quickly learn that they need to rely on one another’s strengths and skills to make it through. It is very rare for a group to easily breeze through the three rounds listed below. The group must practice perseverance and teamwork in order to succeed.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 15 of 17
Grades: 
5

To have students go through an experience that mimics the multiple steps and importance of clear communication between parties necessary in planning and carrying out a service learning project.

Our classes do “The Beast” game as we prepare for our grade-wide service learning projects. This activity is one of the most complex problem solving initiatives we use. It builds on the foundations learned in previous activities and should come near the end of the course.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 16 of 17
Grades: 
5

To show students that everyone is part of the big picture and that the skills needed to take care of a small community of individuals are similar to those needed to care for a larger community. 

This activity can be done at different times throughout the course, each time adding more people to the circle. As one of the closing activities for Urban EdVenture, we do a giant yurt circle with the entire 5th grade, each person playing a role in supporting their neighbor and their grade as a whole.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Unit: 
Urban EdVenture Course by the Westminster Schools
Lesson 17 of 17
Grades: 
5

To provide an opportunity for students who can maintain a vision of a goal their group has to achieve, to show leadership and coach their group members towards the goal. Helium Hoop also creates a space in which leaders can learn to sense the energy of a group. Often times, a group will face conflict when they are in the middle of a project. We use this activity to help the students name that conflict and move forward.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty