Friday, December 21, 2012

Did you know that 7 million kids miss more than a month of school each year?  This is a staggering statistic! recently published information on attendance research that they’ve been doing.  The link for the infographic is below.  It’s title, “Skipping to Nowhere” says it all.  Young people are skipping school, dropping out, and giving up on school and as a result, trading options and opportunities for limited choices and dead ends.  The information continues to shock—75% start skipping while in middle school, 46% skip once a week or more, and only 9% of them ever attend college. 

Possible solutions can be found toward the end of the infographic.  We need to let youth know that we notice when they are not at school.  We need to help them understand how important attending school is for their future.  We need to send our messages through the right messengers—the people who matter to students, like teachers, parents, celebrities, and athletes.  We also need to help youth make the connection between the here and now—the present and the future.  We need to step up and youth need to step up.  We need to change this trajectory.  At the beginning of the infographic it states, “Absenteeism issues plague almost every community in America.  It is not a problem facing only urban low income students; it is a problem facing middle class America - students and families who plan to go to college but simply are not in school enough to ensure they are prepared and ready to succeed once they get there.”  We need our youth to both show up and choose to be present in school.  Read more:

Tis the Season

December is the time of year that prompts many of us think more seriously about how we can give back—to our community, to family, to neighbors, to groups we belong to, to our friends and colleagues.  That makes it the perfect time to engage our youth in Service Learning or Community Service.  Service Learning is a specific outreach in which students identify an unmet need, plan and implement a project to address the need.  Service Learning differs from Community Service in two significant ways.  The first is that Service Learning requires the academic piece to be intentionally embedded in the project.  Secondly, Service Learning requires a reflection to be included in the project.  Students are expected to think about the project and how the project is progressing, and also on the impact of the project and the effect of the project on the student and others—perhaps the community.  This reflection allows young people to connect the dots and more clearly see how academic learning is relevant.  Both Service Learning and Community Service begin with students identifying an unmet need.  Dependent upon the age of the student, this could vary from something on the school ground, the immediate neighborhood around the school, and as students mature, the community at large.  Both Service Learning and Community Service require youth to be involved in the planning and implementation of the plan.  Sometimes with Community Service young people will join others in supporting the community.  A perfect example would be young people participating in “Relay for Life” or a community holiday parade.  The work is supporting the community and teaching the young person about the importance of giving back.  Here are the steps to planning a successful service project:
Step 1:  Identify Community
  • Appropriate for age group
    • School
    • Neighborhood
    • Extended neighborhood
    • Community at large
Step 2:  Determine a real need
  • Needs can be determined in a variety of ways:
o   Survey
o   Walk about
o   Interviewing
o   Outside speaker
o   Other
Step 3:  Find a team to work with you
  • Brainstorm a list of people you might want to involve (local businesses, local media, family)
    • List potential allies
    • Find out about the team members
    • Get adults on board
Step 4:  Design the project
  • Begin with the end in mind:  What do you want to accomplish?  What do you want the impact to be?  What is the end result?
  • Bring in the children/youth to help so this is their project
  • Determine which Standards apply

Step 5:  Get things done
  • Create an action plan—put them in priority and logical order
  • Action plan:  Priority #, Task, Assigned to, Due Date, Date Completed
  • Note:  Will you need to do any fundraising?
Step 6:  Reflect on the work
  • What was my goal?
  • What steps did I take to accomplish them?
  • What do I feel really great about?
  • What do I wish I had done differently?
  • What asset did I build?
  • How did this work change me?
  • How did this work change the community?
  • What do I still want to do?
Step 7:  Celebrate!
  • You reach a milestone
  • You develop a plan that you think will work
  • New members join the group
  • You finished a hard day's work
  • You make a mistake and learn from it

Try a service project this December.  Let us know how you’re doing.