Monday, December 19, 2016

Students Giving Back Through Service Learning


Guest Blogger: Tom Heiss,
Technology Engineering Teacher and
Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator

I was born in Madison, Wisconsin and am from a large family of seven kids.  One of my older brothers is developmentally disabled and set the bar for me and my family to engage in community service projects in Madison. One such event was a 150 mile bike-a-thon for ARC of Dane County fundraiser to help support people with disabilities.    The ARC of Dane County’s mission is to create opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities to reach their full potential by creating acceptance, respect and participation in daily living skills in the community. 

This cause allowed me to develop a passion for teaching and giving back to others in the community who are struggling and are in need of help from our community.    In my teaching career of 29 years, 25 in Janesville I have been trying to pass on to my students the passion of community service and the benefits of giving back to others in our community. 

I am grateful that the School District of Janesville holds to the same value and commitment.   We have implemented service learning into the fabric of a child’s education at SDJ.  Our mission “to serve our community by educating every child” reflects perfectly the correlation that exists between community and education.

In 1993, one such service project that helped support community and our students was the construction of the Camden Playground. At that time, Craig and Parker High School Construction classes under the leadership of Mr. Jim Adams and Mr. Ron Brown helped build the original park.  At its completion, Camden Playground, became the most accessible playground in the world at that time for people with special needs.  Now in 2016, Camden Playground has been refurbished by Janesville community members and organizations,  including School District of Janesville students. 

Mrs.  Stephanie Davis, Dean of Students at TAGOS Leadership Academy, and her students volunteered to help to rebuild the playground with adult mentors.  They assisted by digging holes, spreading gravel, drilling and securing parts together.  The Camden project took several days and service hours to rebuild.  The final stage of completion is the engraving of pickets that surround the park perimeter to create a fence.


One of my students, Michael Hounshell, is a junior at Parker High School taking many Design and Engineering classes and is also part of the Robotics Club assisting with the building of our Robot for competition. Michael has the same passion to give back to the community through service.  Last year, Michael took a class in Technology Engineering class called MasterCAM with Mr. Joe Kapugia. Thanks to Mr. Kapugia, Michael mastered the program. Master CAM brings  the power of  computer aided design software to enhance machining to cut parts directly on a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Router. This process and machinery is used by companies in Janesville and across the globe. The CNC Router is the machine used to fashion the Camden pickets.

The Camden Pickets are a fundraiser and still for “purchase” at $50.00 each.  Michael engraved the picket for the SDJ which will be part of the fencing at Camden. If you would like to still purchase a picket through your donation, please click here: Camden Playground Picket Donations.

It has been rewarding for me to see Michael grow and give his time back to the community through an amazing Camden Playground project.  I think the power of service community learning projects empowers success in our students now and into the future.

To read more about ARC of Dane County: http://arcdanecounty.org/

Click here for photos of TAGOS assisting with the Camden Restoration: Students Help with Camden Restoration

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