Young people in 4-H learn to help others through service learning projects

Turn community service into service learning opportunities for young people with these steps.

Youth can learn many skills through planning and conducting a community service project. The most visible is learning how to help people in their community. Helping youth work through a five step process will turn that community service into a service learning project. Community Service…Service Learning?  Service learning is using community service projects as a tool to teach young people skills while completing a project that benefits their community. Adults can create the service learning opportunity using Michigan State University Extension’s “Planning Your Community Service Project: Based on a Community Service-Learning Model.” 

  1. Pick a project by determining needs
    1. It’s best to have the group of youth do the research behind picking a project by brainstorming the needs of the community and then prioritizing with the group. Other ways of selecting a service project can be to use the top stories from the news or conduct a survey to find out the community needs. Follow up with some research to learn about the problem in your community.
  2. Plan your project and get some publicity
    1. After your group chooses a project, planning the project is the next most important thing. Split the project into small tasks that individuals can accomplish and have group members signup for the tasks that they will complete.  Also put together a timeline on when the tasks need to be done to complete the community service project. You’ll want community support for your project, so write a press release or talk to your local radio station about your project.
  3. Do the service
    1. Complete the service for your community.  Have fun helping others!
  4. Reflect
    1. Community service projects help the community. On the other hand, service learning project help the community and those conducting the project. Reflection can be the most important step in service learning.  Be sure to set aside some time for the group to talk about their service.  After the project, helping youth process what actually took place will help them evaluate the project.   Consider these key questions:
      1. How did you help the community?
      2. How did you feel about the service work?
      3. What went well with the project?
      4. What would you change in your next project?
      5. How do they feel about the service completed? 
      6. What was learned from the project?
      7. How can these lessons apply in other areas of your life?

        Talk about the things that went well and also talk about the negatives or what would make it a better project next time. Journals are also a great way to help young people reflect on their community service project.  Even further, help youth apply these lessons to other experiences or the next service learning project.
  5. Celebrate
    1. Always remember to celebrate the completed service project and let others, especially supporters, know about the project and what was achieved through the service.

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