• Dave McGuire

Real Life Lessons at Schools

The Clarksvillian

At most traditional high schools, students can finish their physical education classes by pursuing sports or engaging in extra-curricular activities. Students at the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) in Dubuque, Iowa, can receive physical education credits when they help senior citizens or people with disabilities manage their personal landscaping. Students can also choose from a few other activities to fulfil their physical education requirement, such as cleaning at golf courses or even river barges. A source of pride for ACL is most students preferring the landscaping program. The school believes the act of helping others is the motivating factor with the students making that program specific decision.

The students at ACL have been identified as being in danger of dropping out of school before completion. With that in mind, the faculty has placed a focus on project-based and independent learning opportunities geared towards guiding the students to graduation.

The school's landscaping program has been a showcase for providing benefits to both students and the local community. One of the more unexpected and pivotal experiences being the lessons in social interaction and engagement. The volunteering students regularly receive social invitations from those people they are working for in the community. The program has begun, not only cleaning and assisting the community residents, but teaching students about building relationships.

Tim Hitzler, a teacher at the Alternative Learning Center, is a leader within the program. His views on the program are correctly beaming with pride. "It’s become a spring cleaning of sorts within the community. The students are stepping up to assist with yard work for those unable to do it themselves.They may rake leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, cutting hedges or cleaning gutters - even tending to chicken coops.”

“It’s been amazing, the attention this has gotten. I think it's because it’s such a simple idea.”