It takes a village to teach a child, and this fall, Las Cruces has a new tool to connect the village and the classroom: CommunityShare Las Cruces, a free-to-use, profile-based website that makes it easy for teachers to find and work with community members who can bring specialized knowledge, real-world perspectives, and project-based learning to classrooms.
Imagine middle-school science classes where students, supported by both their teacher and a biology research scientist, experimentally test different composting approaches to see which one might work best for their school; imagine students working with a fashion designer to make clothing out of recycled and reused materials, all while practicing geometry, trigonometry, arithmetic, and the life-skill of sewing; imagine students working with a web developer to program a virtual museum filled with their own projects and those of their classmates . . . All of these projects happened last school year, despite the pandemic, during the pilot launch of CommunityShare Las Cruces within the Las Cruces Community Schools. (Relatedly, you don’t have to imagine the virtual museum; you can visit it at https://sites.google.com/view/the-200-wing.) This fall, thanks to generous funding from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the CommunityShare Las Cruces platform is open to teachers and community members throughout the greater Las Cruces area.
The teachers involved in the 2020-2021 pilot project reported that the community partners, and the projects they made possible, helped keep students engaged and learning even through the disruptions caused by Covid-19, a result anticipated by a vast body of research in the learning sciences. As reported by Johns Hopkins University and The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (among others), learning outcomes improve when academics and life are connected, when students have the opportunity to work on meaningful projects, and when students have access to positive role models in their community—conditions that can be fulfilled when community partners bring their knowledge, enthusiasm, and care to the classroom.
If you would like to make a difference by sharing your time and knowledge in the schools, you can sign up as a community partner (or a teacher), make a profile, and describe the lessons/projects you’d like to offer at https://lascruces.communityshareapp.us/. Thanks to seed funding from the Las Cruces Community Schools and generous grants from The Stocker Foundation and The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the CommunityShare Las Cruces platform is entirely free to use. Also, thanks to The Stocker Foundation and the El Paso Community Foundation, grant funding can pay for the background checks that all volunteers with the Las Cruces Public Schools must pass before working with students, and teachers can use the platform to apply for locally dedicated mini-grants that can pay for project supplies and/or the time of community partners who aren’t in a position to volunteer. Cruces Creatives, our area’s nonprofit makerspace, can provide access to tools and software that might not be available in the schools, expanding the range of projects that students can undertake. Together, we have the opportunity to offer Las Cruces students amazing learning opportunities this year.
In alignment with the SUCCESS Partnership principle that we need cross-sector collaboration to improve education, CommunityShare Las Cruces was launched in partnership among the Las Cruces Community Schools, which work to unite community and academic life; CommunityShare, an Arizona-based nonprofit that developed the eponymous CommunityShare software platform; and Cruces Creatives, Las Cruces’ non-profit makerspace, which brings together tools, training, and a supportive, creative community. There’s also a role in the collaboration for you—join by signing up at https://lascruces.communityshareapp.us/.
Grant writer and program manager for Cruces Creatives