Character - Claim 3:
Since the founding of REALMS in 2001, service has been a core value held by REALMS staff. In the early years, we recognized that service could act as a powerful vehicle to build character and community in students and staff. Service experiences were often organized and executed as an additional opportunity for small groups or single classes sometimes disconnected from the core learning in the classroom. As REALMS grew and began working with Expeditionary Learning, the service-learning experiences matured and evolved to become rich and powerful connected experiences that are now scaffolded across all grades and touch every student. Since those early years, we have worked hard to carefully and explicitly align our service experiences to include all grades and articulated learning targets for "Service to School" and "Service to Community" experiences.
We now believe that it was possible to engage students in rich service-learning experiences while at the same time drive strong academic growth. In 2010 we were awarded a two-year Oregon Department of Education Learn and Serve grant and were featured in a statewide publication highlighting successful service learning programs. Additionally, we have received two Gray Family Fund grants over the last four years in recognition of our strong commitment to teaching students to be environmentally literate stewards of our natural resources.
Our theory of action is that if we engage students in frequent service to our school and community, and help them see how each of them can make a difference in the world, they will internalize a life long ethic of engaged citizenship. The anecdotal evidence in this section certainly supports this theory, and we have begun to collect quantitative data to see how and where our service learning is driving change in students' attitudes and behavior.
Service to Others: Our students practice service to others throughout their middle school career and in so doing, they develop a strong ethic of engagement, citizenship, and stewardship.