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Unexplored Educational Opportunities This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Can students receive instructional hours at no cost to the school or town? Can students accrue volunteer time in exchange for classroom instructional hours? Can students of diverse cultural backgrounds instruct one another in a mutually beneficial way? If your answer to all of these questions is "yes," then you have begun to recognize unexplored educational possibilities that are not included in school department budgets.

In my public high school of 600 students in a relatively affluent community north of Boston, we have experienced cuts in teacher positions and in course offerings. To balance the problems of limited funding, my school could be innovative in developing and incorporating these under-utilized resources within the community.

When I received my schedule for this year, I became aware that a marine biology class (for which I had registered) had been cut from the course selection because of lack of funding. At the time, I and two other students had been participating in a volunteer program at the New England Aquarium. I would like to propose that my school and the New England Aquarium and similar institutions develop an internship program. One possibility is that in exchange for an agreed upon number of volunteer hours provided by the students, the aquarium and similar organizations could provide some instructional hours for interested students. These instructional hours would enhance the existing courses. Similar possibilities exist with businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, and museums.

A mutually progressive relationship between the community and school could be further utilized by taking advantage of our country's diverse population. Whether through history or language, many subjects in high school touch upon the aspects of a multicultural world. Our diversity as a nation is an asset that should be recognized and incorporated into the curriculum. Included in my freshman World History Class was a unit on the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. A survivor of the ordeal and refugee from Cambodia was living in my hometown and attending my school. A lecture was organized for my peer to tell us of his firsthand experiences, which brought this subject to life in a personal and memorable way. Both the class and the speaker gained from the experience. He was speaking about a time in his life when he had no power and they were painful memories. The classroom experience allowed him to express his pain to the class where he turned the tables from a position of oppression to one of a respected expert.

Other possibilities also come to mind in terms of resources in proximity to my high school. Why not invite students who speak Spanish as a first language to help teach Spanish class? In such an exchange, mutual learning could take place including language proficiency in both Spanish and English as well as improved cultural awareness.

Resources in the community and within our school don't always have a price tag. Learning can benefit from these undiscovered resources. In these troubled economic times, the school must reach further to make the most of education. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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