IUSD to hold Service-Learning Share Fair on Tuesday to celebrate student acts of service


A number of altruistic acts have been quietly occurring around the Irvine Unified School District.

At South Lake Middle School, a group of students drafted geology textbooks for children in Uganda. Deerfield Elementary kids spent time with residents of a local senior center. Uni High teens established a club to welcome new arrivals.

On Tuesday, May 18, these and more than a dozen other service-learning projects completed by IUSD students and teachers will be recognized during the inaugural “Service-Learning Share Fair.” This event, to be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the University High School gymnasium, will include an open house, student performances and an awards ceremony from 5 to 5:30 p.m.

“We’re very excited about the Share Fair because it gives our students a chance to show the community the acts of service they’ve completed,” said Abby Edmunds, IUSD’s service learning facilitator. “It’s been very relevant to them to impact the lives of others, and they’re just very excited about what they can share.”

The genesis of these projects dates back to 2009, when IUSD and the nonprofit group Team Kids were awarded a three-year, $86,000 grant enabling students to serve their communities and boost their academic skills at the same time.

Funded by the California Department of Education, the “CalServe Initiative” was designed to promote service-learning, which meshes community service projects with standards-based instruction. The grant was specifically intended to support a school district and a nonprofit partner.

In IUSD, Team Kids was already well established at many elementary schools, connecting students with police officers, firefighters and other community role models to address real-life issues, such as hunger, homelessness and the environment.

Under the CalServe Initiative, selected fifth- and sixth-grade teachers from Alderwood Basics Plus, Deerfield, Eastshore, Springbrook and University Park elementary schools, as well as Vista Verde School, trained in the principles of service-learning before developing a menu of potential projects.

All IUSD schools were then eligible to apply for “mini-grants” to support their own site-based projects. Ultimately, more than 2,000 students participated from the training schools and the campuses that secured mini-grants, including South Lake, University High School and Northwood and Turtle Rock elementary schools.

Edmunds says the Team Kids Challenge will extend to approximately half of Irvine’s elementary schools next year, and the program’s links to curriculum will be further enhanced. Middle and high school participation will also be expanded through the mini-grant program and related teacher training.