In Dubuque, Iowa, students help out their neighbors as well as earn PE credits thanks to a recent change in their school’s curriculum.
At the Alternative Learning Center, students spent the last two weeks of school assisting elderly or people with disabilities tend to their yard.
The center teaches juniors and seniors who are at risk of dropping out.
“In Iowa, alternative education is a perspective, not a procedure or a program. It is based upon a belief that there are many ways to become educated, as well as many types of environments and structures within which this may occur,” the Iowa Department of Education’s website states. “Further, it recognizes that all people can be educated and that it is in society’s interest to ensure that all are educated.”
“The students and I … come out and help [those needing their assistance]. Could be raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, cleaning gutters, just depends on what they need,” Tim Hitzler, a teacher at the school, shared with the station.
Hitzler said that at first, he wanted students to perform yard work for credits as it benefited all parties involved.
He continued, saying that while the students are not always super happy to get their hands dirty, they do become more engaged when they see the finished product and realize how happy it makes their neighbors.
“The students aren’t typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated,” Hitzler said. “What they really like is helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person.”
So what is an alternative education exactly?
“….alternative education means different things to different people. The definitions can range from a different approach to education that meets the needs of youth at-risk and increases their chance for success in learning and school, to the last ditch opportunity for students who have been suspended or expelled or a re-entry to school after a release from the juvenile justice system.”
“In Iowa, alternative education is a perspective not a procedure or a program, It is based upon a belief that there are many ways to become educated, as well as many types of environments and structures within which this may occur. Further, it recognizes that all people can be educated and that it is in society’s interest to ensure that all are educated (Morley, 1991).”
“Since alternative education is a way of thinking and a way to support students with supplemental and intensive services, it is important to keep in mind that youth do not disconnect from traditional developmental pathways (or high schools for that matter) because of the failure of any one system.”
“Alternative pathways to educational success are needed at every step of the way, ranging from essential early intervention and prevention strategies to a multiplicity of high-quality alternative options (Iowa Code section 280.19A) within the mainstream K-12 system (Aron, 2006). In addition, districts need alternative programs and schools to meet the needs of those who have been unable to learn and thrive at a comprehensive middle or high school.”
All that to say….start digging kids!
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