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
- Extended neighborhood
- Community at large
Step 2: Determine a real need
- Needs can be determined in a variety of ways:
o Walk about
o Outside speaker
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.