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 National Gatherings 

National Gatherings are not traditional academic conferences. There are no formal papers presented, no panels formed, and no hotel conference rooms. They are not discipline-specific, field-specific, or limited to academics.

National Gatherings are gatherings of dedicated service-learning practitioners, including community partners, students, faculty, and service-learning professionals, who wish to deepen their practice and renew their passion through in-depth discussions with other collaborative educators concerned with the intersection of campus and community. National Gatherings are held in locations that foster on-going partnerships between academic institutions and community organizations. They are three-day gatherings during which participants share meals and living space, and engage in collaborative problem solving and critical reflection about their work.

Most National Gatherings are held on college campuses, and as such, they provide the opportunity to visit community sites that partner with local academic institutions. These visits focus on building relationships and making connections, not just sharing information. In addition, these site visits help ground the National Gathering in a particular place, and honor the local work.

In addition, National Gatherings offer concrete workshops led by students, faculty and community partners on vital questions in the service-learning field, including: reflection, assessment, and diversity. These workshops are innovative, interactive, and learner-centered.

However, it is the way these two elements are woven together over three days that make National Gatherings truly unique. At the center of National Gatherings are learning circles, which draw on the topics and themes of the site visits and the workshops, but allow for extensive investigation into these topics. Learning circles meet over the course of the three days, providing practitioners an unprecedented amount of time to dialogue, collaborate, and explore a certain question or topic. Learning circles emphasize the knowledge each person brings to the discussion in the form of their own experiences, and so participants are encouraged to tell stories about their work and their life that help explore the topic at hand. Individual stories and individual and collective action are at the center of the learning circle.

National Gatherings are people focused, aimed at developing new networks of educators to share stories and strengthen each otherís work. Learning circles usually meet for up to nine hours over the course of a National Gathering. This intensive process creates time to build relationships and think creatively about some of the cutting edge issues facing service learning nationally and locally.