Service Learning Primer
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preparation begins with planting the seed, cultivating your students interest in a problem or a need, stimulating the kids to want to do something about it. This can involve a study or an investigation, or simply a discussion that captures their imaginations. Of course there are those magical moments when somebody walks into the classroom upset or inspired about something he/she saw in the newpaper or on television and feels a call to action. But more often it starts with a teacher who brings up a subject in class, gets the kids percolating on it, and then suggests that they do something about it. This is especially true in the elementary grades.
Here are some good ideas for getting started. Please keep in mind that the steps given here assume you are starting from zero; you may not need to do all these things. What's important is to mobilize your students. Do what works.
a) What needs or opportunities exist? Hold a class brainstorming session to identify needs within the community or opportunities to do something beneficial. Challenge the students to think of as many ideas as possible. Encourage them to build on each others ideas, to be spontaneous, to take risks, to think creatively. Then have them try to identify the causes behind each need, as well as some possible interventions.
b) What are some solutions? Start generating workable solutions (what can realistically be done?). This is where project ideas start to take shape. Ask the students to tell what they like about each proposed idea, and to share their questions and concerns.
c) What resources are available? At this point some preliminary research may need to be done before a final decision is made. You might need to identify resources available to help or support the project if any are needed. This could include a grant proposal, a business or organization in the community, or parent volunteers. It may be helpful to invite an individual with expertise in the area of interest in order to provide relevant information before a final decision is made.
d) Decide on the project.
When making the final decision, try to assure that all the students:
Engaging the students in this kind of a process helps them learn how to analyze and creatively solve problems and enhances their decision-making skills. It also makes them stakeholders in the eventual outcome.
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