AP Lit: Service Learning 2.0

by LeeAnne Lavender

Service Learning Coach & AP Lit teacher

Last year, I decided to redesign one of my AP Lit units around a service learning cycle and the results were so successful. You can check out last year's story here: https://www.concordiashanghai.org/citizenc/citizenc-post-detail/~board/citizen-service/post/ap-lit-a-service-learning-reboot.

This year, I was eager to revisit this unit and see what students would learn and do. The second time around, I had a better sense of pacing for the unit, and was excited to see if this could open up more time for students to create experiences that would generate change. I was not disappointed. 

The AP Lit students this year are a motivated and engaged group of learners. Right away, they loved the hands-on approach of MISO (Media, Interviews, Surveys and Observations) as an active research method, and many students commented that they plan to use MISO tools in other courses and beyond their studies in high school. The interviews they conducted, in particular, generated new and insightful information and perspectives, leading to a rich process of identifying needs in our community and action plans to meet or address those needs. 

As a re-cap, this unit is rooted in the literary analysis of Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Poisonwood Bible. The students learn about the history of the Congo, especially the horrors of what happened during the colonial rule of Belgium's King Leopold. They also investigate the continued consequences of this time period on the current situation in the Congo, and our own connection to the Congo through the electronic devices we own and how the minerals in those devices could have been sourced in unethical ways from the Congo. 

One of the final tasks of the unit involves watching Dr. Denis Mukwege's 2018 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Dr. Mukwege works at a medical clinic in a conflict-riddled part of the Congo and his speech is challenging to watch because of its heavy and tragic content. He implores citizens of the world to acknowledge and face these atrocities to participate in stopping violence in the Congo. 

Senior student Isabel C wrote this: Denis Mukwege reminds us to “have the courage” to stand up for what is right. To stand up when others are being suppressed, when others are being treated unfairly. The courage comes from fully attempting to understand the perspectives of others and always to be cognizant of greater complexities that appear past the surface level. We are to be listeners and supporters for those who are suffering as “the road to recovery is long and difficult.” We must not turn a blind eye and run from the problem but run towards the problem, knowing it will be difficult, but to be willing to choose action for good. This is how you say ‘no’ to indifference.

As students grappled with these ideas, they used the design cycle to identify needs in our community related to injustice, awareness and ethical ways of thinking and acting. This led to full service learning experiences that have created ripples of change, particularly in our high school community. You can click on each story below to read about what students did and the impact they created. 

Three groups of AP Lit students will be sharing concluding insights with the high school community at an assembly next month. Based on what they observed while running their simulations and activities, they hope to encourage high school students to understand their position of privilege and reflect on some of the ethical questions raised during the service learning experiences. 

This has been another robust service learning experience in AP Lit. Please read about each project below.