Successful Projects

Teachers throughout the Chicago Public Schools are integrating service projects with classroom curriculum every day. Project-based learning when tied to an authentic community issue becomes Service Learning, a powerful teaching and learning tool for students and teachers. Teachers who have led successful projects report increased levels of student enthusiasm, performance, and engagement in the classroom. Service Learning projects enable students to bridge the gap between theory and practice, between social/emotional learning and cognitive learning.

This page will host brief examples-divided by subject area-of successful Service Learning projects from public schools in Chicago. We hope that these examples will inspire you to develop service projects with your classroom. Dream big, but start small. The new relations that you will develop with your students by learning in a new context will be well worth the effort.

If you are a CPS teacher and would like to contribute a project to this page, please e-mail, fax or mail run your project to the Service Learning Initiative. See Contact Us for mailing information.


US History and Voter Mobilization
In a U.S. History Course, students learned about the Civil Rights Movement. Two important components of the Civil Rights Movement were the grassroots voter registration, education, and mobilization work done by many activists and the advocacy effort aimed at passing the Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. The class decided to enhance their understanding of voter mobilization by collaborating with Operation Rainbow/PUSH, a national civil rights organization located in Chicago. Operation Rainbow/PUSH provided educational and logistical support to help students develop their own voter turn out campaign. At the culmination of the campaign, the teacher guided students through a process of reflection to help them connect their experiences to the classroom study of the Civil Rights Movement and understand the decline in voter participation over the past decades.

The Economics of Hunger
In an Economics course, the teacher wanted students to understand the economics of hunger. Using concepts such as supply and demand, government intervention, and wage/price controls, the teacher hoped to demonstrate that hunger is not an individual issue, but is the result of various forces at work within society. In order for students to get a better understanding of the magnitude of hunger, they spent a day at the Greater Chicago Food Depository packing and re-packaging food for distribution among local food pantries. As a follow-up activity, student teams were asked to identify a local food pantry, research the organization, and volunteer at least one afternoon. Student groups returned to class and reported their findings. The teacher incorporated their findings into a broader discussion about both private and public responses to hunger.

Immigration in Chicago
A World Studies class examined immigration issues around the world as part of their course work. In order for students to gain a deeper understanding of the problem, the teacher partnered with a local community organization to enable students to work in their community on the problem of immigration. Prior to discussing a project, the teacher led students through some teambuilding activities in order to prepare them for working on a project together. To begin work on the project, the teacher invited guest speakers in to discuss the local issues related to immigration. One speaker discussed the problem of work conditions for day laborers, many of whom are immigrants. A second speaker discussed immigrant documentation, specifically referencing a federal initiative that enabled documented immigrants to help family members who were not documented. The students decided to work on the federal initiative to document family members. After receiving training in the documentation process from lawyers specializing in immigration issues, the students hosted a day at a local congregation to begin the documentation process of immigrants. Two hundred local residents attended on that day and received assistance from students and legal experts. The teacher completed the experience by tying the action back to classroom work and helped the students to reflect on their work together.


Environmental Science and Invasive Species
In an Environmental Science course, students learned about the concept of biodiversity and its importance in the natural world. During their studies, students read about a variety of threats to biodiversity in nature including invasive species. The teacher made a contact with a local forest preserve and organized a trip to study and plant and animal life at the preserve including invasive species. The students spent part of the day clearing a prairie area of invasive buckthorn. The class decided to return to continue their work clearing invasive plants, because they learned that native plants only flourish if invasive plants are contained. After the trip, the teacher guided students through a process of reflection where they considered various strategies to contain invasive species and discussed what might be done to control the introduction of invasive species.