The Community as Classroom at Teton Valley Community School

At Teton Valley Community School (TVCS), the local community has always been considered an extension of the classroom. TVCS teachers implement a unique Project Based Learning (PBL) curriculum that requires students to answer a driving question using a multitude of resources, including the expertise and events going on around them. Many of the projects that we undertake at TVCS help meet an organizational or community need.

TVCS students have worked directly with local businesses, agencies, and nonprofits including Friends of the Teton River, Teton Soil Conservation District, and Teton Valley Museum. They also participated in a multi-year community engagement and planning initiative called Envision Victor. As a result, TVCS students have been active movers and shakers in and around Teton Valley, Idaho for over 10 years.

This year, the 3rd/4th grade class and their pre-Kindergarten reading buddies have been helping the Teton Valley Community Animal Shelter (TVCAS) raise awareness about their facility and its inhabitants. After three visits to the shelter and multiple discussions with Shelter Director, Aska Shiratori-Langman, the students identified organizational needs that they wanted to help meet.

Already, their efforts have made a difference. They have gotten to know individual animals and written captivating descriptions for the shelter’s adoption promotion materials. They also successfully implemented a holiday toy drive. This involved designing and hanging flyers, visiting local businesses, and strategically placing hand-crafted collection boxes for animal toy donations. The students are now focusing on what it means to be a responsible pet owner and what can be done to help stray/homeless animals in Teton Valley.

In February, the reading buddies will attend TVCAS’s Annual Open House to share their knowledge about the animals’ personalities and needs with the visitors. They will also implement a community outreach education program to present their findings on best-practices for animal care in our community.

Public presentations of project results and recommendations provide a meaningful and memorable conclusion for students engaged in Project Based Learning (PBL). The community benefits from the projects and students grow to be engaged citizens through their learning.

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