At the Hoboken Charter School, we understand that it is the nature of children to be curious about and intrigued by new experiences and new information. The Hoboken Charter School espouses the belief that all children enter the world naturally eager and equipped to learn; to a great extent, they enter school with the same proclivities. The Hoboken Charter School was created as a way not to improve traditional ideas of schooling, but to change them. We work to maintain a school in which education is sought and obtained by students, not parceled out by teachers. Only when students seek out answers to their own questions will they truly learn and remember.

As a K-12 school, the Hoboken Charter School seeks to provide students with a stable learning community within which they can mark their growth through stages of academic and personal achievement. In this community of learners, both younger and older students are engaged in collaborative inquiry. Through these collaborations, younger students gain role models and mentors while older students develop leadership skills, a motivation that is very close to the core of our theme of service learning.

This community of learners is supported by the school’s theme of service learning. Service is a powerful tool for youth development. It transforms the young person from a passive recipient to an active provider, and in so doing, redefines the perception of youth in the community from a cause of problems to a source of solutions. Service learning provides students with opportunities to apply what they have learned in school in meaningful ways within their community. It also provides the community with needed services. Service learning enables teachers to employ a variety of effective teaching strategies that emphasize learner-centered, interactive, experiential education. Service learning places curricular concepts in the context of real-life situations and empowers students to analyze, evaluate and synthesize these concepts through practical problem-solving, often in service to the community.

Through service learning, students feel useful and challenged, experience an increased sense of competence, hold more positive attitudes about the community and have a greater sense of responsibility. They practice caring behaviors as they learn about and appreciate diversity among people and environments. With service learning, students find that their efforts are valued by peers and society as they discover that they can make differences in positive ways and that they are able to connect with caring adults in the community, thereby establishing themselves as contributing members of that community.

Service learning also has the potential to reduce the barriers that often separate school and community. Students learn that they can move beyond their small circle of peers and take their place as contributing members of the community. They discover that learning occurs throughout the community in traditional and non-traditional settings–libraries, public agencies, parks, and hospitals. Community relations are enhanced as agencies, citizens and local government officials find that their expertise and counsel is sought by the school. Through service learning, schools and communities become genuine partners in the education and development of youth.

Two essential elements that give service learning its educational integrity are preparation and reflection. Preparatory study of underlying problems, history and policies enriches student learning, as does deliberate discussion and other classroom activities. Through the process of reflection, students analyze concepts, evaluate experiences and form opinions–all in the context of the school curricula. Practicing reflection also allows young people to gain a greater sense of themselves. They acquire insights which encourage them to build on their strengths and to set goals in areas where they know they need further development. Reflection also offers teachers an opportunity to identify the knowledge students have gained through service. This reflection, which is tied to other authentic assessments, provides students with a much more detailed picture of their performance and areas for further development and inquiry.

The Hoboken Charter School’s service learning orientation is supported by a curriculum designed to reflect current research on children and learning. This research suggests that each child’s fundamental desires to know and to learn are manifested in different ways and are guided by a variety of individual strengths. The Hoboken Charter School is committed to this theory of multiple intelligences. As a result, the curriculum is designed to accommodate a broad range of learning styles that allows children the freedom to express their learning in a variety of ways. This expression may take the form of a written paper, a dramatic performance, a three-dimensional model, the production of a video documentary, a drawing or a sculpture. While students are given the flexibility to pursue learning in a personally relevant manner, they will also gain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to meet and exceed New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.

This curriculum is supported by a staff of dedicated professionals who are skilled observers of the learning process. They know how and when to step in for appropriate mediation and when to leave the learner alone to discover for him/herself the idea being explored, analyzed and assimilated. One of the unique and promising features of the Hoboken Charter School is the concept that teachers are self-identified learners. They are viewed less as those who teach, show or elucidate and more as those who are intimately involved in the learning process and therefore understand the absolute need for exploration, confusion, questioning, guidance and understanding. Teachers are able to identify the point at which some guidance is warranted and will either provide this themselves or will pair the learner with a more able peer.

The ideas that drive the Hoboken Charter School — service learning in an academic community — allow us to create an academically intense environment in an inclusive setting. We are deeply committed to our vision of a school in which all members of the Hoboken community feel welcome and are invested in the development of Hoboken’s youth.

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