Stay Sane During Exams! Tips for Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, May 12, 2014 @ 01:30 PM

Exams are around the corner. Dreading having to buckle down and study? Here are some tips to keeping sane and doing your very best on those exams.

Of course, the best way to do well on an exam is to work all year or semester to master the material.  By being prepared for class, taking good notes, and regularly reviewing the material, you’ll ensure you won’t have to cram everything just before the exam.  Learning the material in increments is the best way to study.  Ideally, the time right before exams should be used to review everything you’ve learned and to go back over concepts you’ve had difficulty with or don’t remember as well.  It should not be the time to start learning the course material.

A little planning can help students get more from studying.

In the weeks that approach exam time, planning and organizing your time will reduce stress and maximize the time you have to study. Time management is the best way to avoid procrastination and all-night cramming.  Make a calendar of your exam schedule and map out when and where would be the best time to study for each exam.  If you prefer to study in a group, talk with your classmates ahead of time to best plan your study sessions around each other’s schedules.  If you want to have a quiet space to study, consider reserving a space at your library in advance.  Try to give yourself enough time to review for each exam, and consider which classes have been giving you the most trouble – you might want to have extra time to review for those.

Your time isn’t all you should organize. Make sure you have all the materials you need to make the best of your study time. Keeping your notes organized throughout the semester will save a lot of valuable study time.  If you plan on purchasing review books or practice materials, do so in advance as it becomes more difficult to find them during exam time.  Having review materials in advance will prompt you to study in advance, and sometimes getting these materials in the beginning of the course can help you prepare more throughout the semester. 

work

Trying to put together and remember months of information can be overwhelming. Breaking down the information into larger concepts ideas and then narrowing in on the details is the best way to pull together and synthesize everything you have learned.  When reviewing your notes, create an outline of the material. If you are a visual person, create graphic organizers, drawings or flow charts to reorganize your thoughts. Condense each chapter, or (if possible) the entire curriculum, onto one page by naming topics, concepts, or events.  Include key dates, formulas, and vocabulary on your study sheet.  Group common ideas together or color code your review sheet to help you remember the ideas.  Once you have outlined and reviewed all your notes, go back to your outline and star or highlight difficult or important concepts that you need to review again in detail.  This exercise helps you synthesize the information and makes it more accessible by laying it all out on one page.  If you really take your time with this, usually just reorganizing the information can help you to remember it. You may find you won’t have to review your entire outline, but only need to go back over those concepts you identified as needing extra attention. 

Another way to review information is to self-test. Look for practice questions in textbooks, review books, or homework problem sets. The Internet is overflowing with practice questions, sample exams, and online flashcards to test your knowledge.  You could also try writing questions for yourself as you read through your notes. Ask someone to quiz you on the information if you are studying with others. Making flashcards or using flashcard apps like Quizlet.com are other ways to test your knowledge.  Studying with groups can also be helpful.  This gives you the opportunity to ask for help from your peers.  In addition, often the best way to retain information is by teaching it to someone else. Recalling the information, organizing your thoughts, and verbalizing it is the best ways to memorize something. If you prefer to study alone, you should still try this exercise of retelling the information in your own words by grabbing a sibling, friend, or relative to pretend to be your student. Don’t be afraid to try talking to yourself while studying, though you may want to avoid being around other people for this one. 

There is no one definitive way to study, but hopefully some of these tips give you some ideas on how you can approach your next exam. You alone know how you learn best, so try out different ways of studying until you find what combination of review techniques works best for you. 

Exam time can be an overwhelming and stressful time. Creating schedules and managing your is one way to cut down stress.  Shut off phones and social media to help you focus.  There are several apps that you can add to turn off distractions on your computer or phone.  When you know your game plan ahead of time, studying becomes less overwhelming.  If you’re having difficulty with something, step back and focus on something else or take a break.  Exercise can help to reduce stress and clear your head.  Eating a healthy and well balanced diet will keep you energized and help you focus.  Listening to music or talking to someone about your stress can help you cope with stress. Most importantly, avoid comparing yourself to others.  Focus on what you need to do to do your best.

After all your hard work studying, the day of the exam will finally come, and hopefully you feel confident and prepared.  Familiarize yourself with the testing location beforehand if it is not at your school, and give yourself extra time to get there. The night before, check what materials you may need and have these ready ahead of time.  Set your alarm, or perhaps multiple. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. Hydration is also important and can improve your testing performance.  

Trying to cram and review right before an exam will only cause you more anxiety and cause you to forget things.  Sometimes you have to accept that you have done everything you could to prepare yourself, and hopefully you will feel confident entering the exam.  Best of luck!

Topics: education, k12, highered, Exams, Finals

Getting Students Excited for Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

A more caring world would be comprised of more people using their time to improve their community.  However many people do not feel motivated to serve.  The best way to overcome this obstacle is to instil a sense of obligation to one’s community at an early age.  Motivating young people to volunteer can seem daunting at first because teens are perceived as being apathetic and selfish.  However, with the correct approach, bringing out the compassionate side in teens is less challenging than it may seem.  To encourage young people to become civically engaged, you must first appeal to their interests by listening and guiding them toward service opportunities that they will learn and grow from the most.  Motivating students to serve is less challenging than it seems.

Becoming influential in young people’s lives means earning their respect. Students will be more open to your ideas if you become relatable without being artificial.  Trying to relate to young people by pretending to be one of them will only have their eyes rolling at you. Treat them as you would anyone else, and be yourself.  Young people want to feel that your energy and enthusiasm is a genuine part of who you are.  They don’t want to hear a sales-pitch type speech about volunteerism that blatantly attempts to appeal a younger generation.  To do this you must break the predisposition that adults don’t trust teens and vice versa.  

Though seemingly counterintuitive, young people will sooner respect and follow you if you treat them as an equal.  Show them you are someone they want to respect and listen to rather than someone they must follow.  An important step in establishing this relationship is so engage them in meaningful conversation. Using authoritative language full of rigid directions and procedures is ineffective because in truth, no one really likes being told what to do.  People like to hear about new ideas and then with their own sense of agency decide to act upon those ideas and movements.  Avoid clichés and present the platform of volunteerism as an exciting, new idea by showing how it can be innovative and meaningful. Once you have earned the trust and respect of a group of young people, you’ll be ready to engage them and help them make the most of their service experiences.  

As an advisor and mentor to young people, encouraging them to serve means being a resource and guide to their service projects.  Students are driven to work for causes that they are interested in, so rather than handing them a project, talk to them and coach them through what they think is needed in the community and how they believe they can help. Though they may be initially motivated by an incentive to volunteer the goal is that gradually students will become more inclined to volunteer out of personal interest and growth - rather than just a reward.  You can help students develop this inclination to volunteer by guiding them to find opportunities that align with their interests.  Listen attentively and show them ways they can become involved with nonprofits or start their own service initiatives that cater to their interests.  Students are impacted personally more by the one-on-one conversations they have with mentors and teachers than large, wholesale speeches and lectures.  Getting to know a student can help you be a better resource to them in finding service opportunities.  

The main goal of motivating students to serve is to make service fit with their lives rather than forcing it on them.  You earn their trust and respect by being genuine, relatable, and an attentive listener. Often students feel unenthusiastic about service because they don’t really feel they can make an impact; they think they do not have a say in the things they’d like to change in their community.  Intrinsically, most students want to exercise their voice in the community, but don’t realize they have the power. Volunteering helps students understand ways they can make a difference.

Additionally, when a student feels stuck, help break down a project into small tasks.  Try to understand what they are interested in changing and show them that this can be achieved by asking them to break up a project into smaller steps.  Short-term goals are easier to digest than big-picture ideas.  Showing students that service is an accessible way to make a difference is one of the best motivators.  Check in with students periodically on the progress of their service projects and remind them that their work is appreciated.  Showing appreciation for a volunteer’s work helps to maintain that trust and respect that was initially built to get them involved.  

Encouraging students to volunteer means first gaining their attention and respect.  Incentives may help catalyze a student’s service, but individualized attention and guidance will help motivate them to become life-long volunteers.  Getting students to work with other people their own age also helps motivate them to serve.  In the end, fostering a culture of service and instilling in each individual the desire to work for something greater than themselves starts with making change-making more accessible.  Showing young people that by applying their knowledge and passion, they already have the tools to make a difference is the best way to ensure volunteerism begins and continues to give them purpose in life.  

Topics: service learning, volunteering, k12, millennials, leadership, engaged learning, social entrepreneurship, higher education, community service coordinators, experiential learning

The power of experience: How service-learning transforms education

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

 

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.


“We have to realize that sitting in a classroom is not the only way you learn, and it’s certainly not the best way you learn.”

 

Recently, I shared how Brenda Elliott-Johnson, along with her Character Development team, is successfully leading a growing service-learning movement in her school district.  Elliott-Johnson is the Executive Director of Student Services and Character Development for Guilford County Schools and the 2014 recipient of the G. Bernard Gill Urban Service-Learning Award.  

 

This week, in part two of my interview, Elliott-Johnson shares the power of service-learning as a tool for educators. In response, I share my experiences as a student involved in service-learning.

 

Natasha: What would you might say to someone who is critical of the value of service-learning?


Elliott-Johnson:
Sometimes the community and the world has a perception that our youth are sitting around playing video games, watching television, going to the mall, or looking in the mirror - caring about themselves. So, I just don’t understand anyone who would be against young people using what they have learned in school to improve their schools and their community. 

One of the things about the service-learning in Guilford County is that it is optional.  We understand that many of our young people have really full, active lives and may not really see this as something that they really have a passion for, or time for.  We have 72,000 children in our school district.  This isn’t going to be the thing that every child wants to do. 

We do believe that our teachers should be using this as an instructional strategy in classrooms because it is a research-based strategy that increases student engagement, reduces discipline and improves attendance. We hope that students that are doing this don’t just want to get an award, but that they have a passion around an issue and they are committed to solving that issue. 

What we try to do in the elementary and middle school levels is build that passion for the [service] work, so it’s natural for them to have a passion for serving their communities in high school.  That’s our goal.  We intentionally made sure it was optional just for that reason.  We didn’t want people to feel obligated to serve.  We wanted people to do this because this is what they are passionate about.   


Natasha: You talked about innovation and problem solving.  Do you remember a specific time or example when you saw a student really grow or something just clicked when they did service-learning?

Elliott-Johnson: We read a lot of the reflections that youth write about their experiences. [At] the middle school down the street, one of their English teachers lead a global awareness project in connecting students to another country that she had actually spent time in as a Peace Corps volunteer.  Those students wrote letters back and forth, and ended up actually writing books for the students there because one of the issues is that they don’t have books. 

Another example - we have students who are developing tutoring programs.  They are helping us address issues of literacy; they are helping us to address achievement gap issues.  [In] one of my favorite projects, we had students lead a senior project called “Malaria Sucks” which was an initiative to purchase and distribute netting in a country with a lot of deaths and illnesses from malaria.  I just see this as the world being opened up to a lot of students.  We have a responsibility as global citizens to help each other.  



Natasha: You described service-learning as an educational tool. Now, this seems to be a point of confusion for some people: the difference between volunteerism and service-learning.  How would you clarify or define what service-learning means?

Elliott-Johnson: When you look at high quality service-learning, when we are talking about service-learning being used as an instructional strategy, we’re talking about a teacher using it as a strategy to teach content in the classroom.  In the classroom it should be a very good balance between the learning and the serving.   

We have to realize that sitting in a classroom is not the only way you learn, and it’s certainly not the best way you learn.  You learn by doing.  Experiential learning is the best learning.  
 


As a student, speaking with Brenda Elliott-Johnson was inspiring. I got to see how educators are finding innovative ways to improve education through service-learning.  She stressed the importance of learning real-world applications and skills through service. Elliott-Johnson believes that service teaches “big picture skills” such as critical thinking and teamwork, and also helps build empathy, reflection, and oral and written communication skills. She sees service as a way to build persistence and global awareness.  Her passion for improving education through service has resulted in the growing success of Guilford County Schools' service-learning program.  For students, this program is opening doors and eyes, which otherwise would remain closed in the classroom. As a student, I personally can attest to the power of learning through service.  

Halfway through grade nine, our guidence counselor visited my English class to talk about opportunities in high school and our future.  What stood out to me most during this session was a story he told about what may happen to a student participating in service-learning.  In the story, a student interested in science starts volunteering at a local hospital.  In time, the student gains insight into the medical field and might even take on a small part time position at the hospital. This experience helps him to grow as an individual and become an engaged member of his community.  With this experience in hand, when the time comes to apply for college, this student has built an interest in medicine upon real-life experiences.  Students engaged in service-learning form connections and learn real-world skills.

After hearing this promising story, I decided to find out more about the service-learning program.  I started with volunteering at the library two hours a week to meet the monthly goals I'd set for myself.  From there, I was exposed to other exciting extracurricular and service-learning opportunities where experience and connections started becoming my most prized tools.  I'd become aware of the possibilities available to me, and my volunteer work became about more than counting hours and a piece of paper at graduation.

Spending a few hours sorting books at the library snowballed a whole new chapter in my life centered around service-learning.  I became involved with other nonprofits and service events, joined youth leadership and service organizations, and learned the value of being an engaged member of the community.  I became more outgoing and a better risk-taker.  While engaged in service, I interact with people from different backgrounds and age groups.  I developed better oral and written communication skills, and the confidence to make myself not just seen, but also heard.  

In short, my life has taken a turn similar to that of the student our counselor described to us.  Because of the work of people like Brenda Elliott-Johnson do in the field of service learning, pushing students to solve community problems and apply themselves to more than just school work, I have grown and matured. I have learned more from the opportunities presented by service-learning than from any other experience in my teen and adolescent years.  
 

How have you seen service-learning change your own live or that of someone else’s? 

 

Download the Benefits of Service-Learning Infographic

 

 

 

Topics: engaged learning, service learning, k12, community engagement, experiential learning, leadership, learning strategies

“Empowering NobleLeaders” at the National Service-Learning Conference

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 08:53 AM

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For the past quarter century, the National Youth Leadership Council has brought together youth and adults from all over the world and all different disciplines to share ideas, skills, passions, and their service-learning experiences at the National Service-Learning Conference. The yearly conferences are held in various host cities, with different co-host organizations, and continues to grow in participant number as well as prestige of keynote speaker and program leaders every year. This years 25th annual MONUMENTAL conference April 9th to 12th will prove to be one of the biggest and most exciting yet. The conference will be held for the first time in Washington D.C., a city whose international network and incredible civic engagement has been a major motivation for this year’s MONUMENTAL theme. The conference will take full advantage of the unique service, programming, and networking opportunities our nation’s capitol has to offer.  

All conference workshops and plenary sessions will take place at the historic Washington Marriott Wardman park, unless otherwise indicated in the posted schedule. Various keynote speakers include Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Supreme Court Justice, Arne Duncan, ninth U.S. Secretary of Education, and Minh Dang, White House Champion of Change as a national leader and in human trafficking and child abuse. Youth leaders in service are equally involved in the preparation and participation as their adult counterparts and the conference will spotlight some of the most inspirational, motivated, and change-making young people as featured speakers, program organizers, and session leaders. Highlighted conference events include Capitol Hill Day, a truly unique opportunity for adult and student leaders to advocate for youth as solutions to today’s toughest challenges at home and abroad by meeting with legislators and Congress members. The goal of NYLC and Capitol Hill Day is to convene hundreds of youth advocates, as well as provide them the support and opportunity to meet with Congressional offices, to educate policy-makers about the importance of collaborating with young people to incite real change in their communities.

Students engaged in volunteer service.

Another highlighted event of this year’s conference is the Day of Service: A Celebration of Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on Saturday April 12th. All attendees are encouraged to give back to the D.C. community and put into practice some of the service learning skills and initiatives they have just learned about in the days prior at the NSLC. The Day of Service will be held on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial steps and includes several different ways to become engaged and have fun, including direct service projects, networking with community members and local nonprofits, and opportunities to hear from community leaders. Partnering organizations such as the Peace Corps, D.C. Habitat for Humanity, Earth Force, generationOn, and Special Olympics Project UNIFY will be present to hone the energy and inspiration cultivated by all conference attendees, speakers, and leaders. Youth Service America (YSA) is the founder and chief organizer of GYSD, the largest service event in the world and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth, which is held each year over a weekend in April (April 11th to 13th for 2014) in more than 100 countries on six continents. As the conference’s co-host, YSA aims to bring this monumental and international service event to the 2014 MONUMENTAL NSLC and Washington D.C. in order to address environmental issues, health and inclusion needs, and educational disconnects of the surrounding community. GYSD is both a celebration and mobilization of service-oriented youth, sharing the same focus and motivation as the annual National Service Learning Conference.

Whether you are a returning conference attendee or newcomer, young person or adult, student or teacher, administrator or non-profit organization, researcher or consultant on service learning and youth leadership, the NSLC’s multiple day and concurrent program schedule enables any type of attendee to personalize their conference and design experiences tailored to their own needs and passions. The educational sessions, discussion groups, interactive workshops, and featured speakers will provide both youth and adults the tools, resources, ideas, and motivation to enhance their service learning practices as well as improve their school, organization, and community. With the wide variety of program topics and types, anyone can become engaged in and inspired by the NSLC.

NobleHour is pleased to again be a sponsor of this year’s National Service Learning Conference. And we are excited to present an interactive discussion-based workshop on how to use service learning to empower students to become Changemakers will certainly prove beneficial for coordinators, teachers, and students to increase their understanding and value of applying what is learned in the classroom to the community. We will focus on how to effectively implement service learning projects with high school and college students to teach Social Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement, and Student Leadership. Through group discussion and interactive presentation, we plan to facilitate the sharing of service learning experiences among participants. We hope to share our expertise and experience with the audience and together discuss effective strategies to increase students’ engagement, and enhance their learning, in the classroom and beyond.

You don’t want to miss this year’s National Service Learning Conference in Washington D.C. or the Global Youth Service Day taking place all over the world. Find out how to get involved with one of the hundreds of projects or if GYSD is already coming to a region near you. Even if you cannot attend this year’s exciting conference, there are many ways to stay connected and informed of the NSLC’s happenings through facebook, twitter, or the soon to be available NSLC mobile app.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community service, social entrepreneurship, Monumental, outreach, community engagement, k12

Planting the Seeds for a Successful Service-Learning Program

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 08:35 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.
 

“Students are always asking, 'when will I ever use this,' and so service-learning, for me as an educator, has always answered that question by giving them opportunities to solve problems.”

– Brenda Elliott-Johnson, Executive Director of Student Services and Character Development for Guilford County Schools

The 25th annual National Service-Learning Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. this year from April 9-12.  This conference invites educators and students from across the nation to attend workshops, hear keynote speakers, and engage in service. The event brings together civically engaged young people to share the impact of service-learning and volunteerism. This year the conference will focus on teaching leadership, advocating for service-learning on Capitol Hill, and service opportunities across the globe.

One of the conference presenters is Brenda Elliott-Johnson, the Executive Director of Student Services and Character Development for Guilford County Schools and 2014 recipient of the G. Bernard Gill Urban Service-Learning Award. I sat down with Elliott-Johnson to learn how a successful service-learning program is started in schools and to learn how service-learning can serve as a tool for educators.

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Natasha:
How did you become involved in service-learning. Where did it all start?

Elliott-Johnson: I started with service-learning as a teacher, and so that would have been almost twenty years ago. I just really tried to figure out ways to take what students were learning in school to some real world examples. Students are always asking, “when will I ever use this,” and so service-learning, for me as an educator, has always answered that question by giving them opportunities to solve problems.  

In Nashville I was still really involved a lot of organizations.  I was a Student Council sponsor at my high school. I was involved in a program which helps young people think of ways to address bias, bigotry, and discrimination.  We had a lot different ways that we were helping young people solve community problems.  

I was a science teacher and we had a group of young people—I taught at a predominantly African American school—and there was a concern about the lack of African Americans going into the field of science.  Our students developed a website to promote African American students into the fields of science by highlighting local people who were working in those different areas.

As a principal, I also served on a number of community boards including a Youth Holding Power project that I helped to sponsor, which was a national project that had youth leading school reform efforts, and a Youth Impact Project.

Natasha: You’ve won an award and you will be attending the National Service-Learning Conference. Can you tell me a little about that?

Elliott-Johnson: The National Youth Leadership Council holds an annual National Service-Learning Conference, which bring together students, teachers, and researchers in the field of service-learning. This is our third year, as a school district, to participate. The last three years we have been able to bring students so they can see what other students are doing around the country in the field of service-learning, as well as share our practices and learn about other opportunities for service-learning.

We are glad to be able to do that this year. It’s going to be a big deal, and one of the events includes is a visit to our elected officials – to actually go on Capitol Hill and talk about the importance of this type of learning.

Natasha: Can you tell me about the evolution of service-learning here in Guilford County?

Elliott-Johnson: Our superintendent, when he came in 2008, did listening tours around the city. What he heard over and over again was that something was missing from the education of our students. Whether he talked to parents, students, community, or teachers, they all said the same thing. They felt that it was character—that our students needed to have good character and they also needed to make a positive difference in their community, not just when they graduated.  So out of that came our district’s Character Development Service-Learning Initiative, back in 2008.  

Our original goal was to expand character development and service-learning district-wide. We’ve had some tremendous work happen, including in the last three years for our high school seniors to document more than 600,000 hours of service and more than 2000 of our graduates to earn service-learning recognition. We have a lot of youth that are engaged.  More than 10,000 have been engaged in service-learning in communities and schools. I’m just so excited about it. We’re just beginning to measure the footprint that our youth are leaving in our community: that 600,000 hours is more than a $14 million impact. They [youth] have a lot of innovativeness that we could benefit from as a community.   

To clarify, students in Guilford County School’s service-learning program can earn recognition for their service in two forms.  They can earn an Exemplary Award by tracking at least 100 hours of service-learning using NobleHour, or they can earn a Service-Learning Diploma by completing at least 250 hours of service-learning. 

To keep track of all the hours students complete for their service-learning recognitions, Guilford County schools turned to NobleHour to help make this process easier and more efficient.  As Brenda explains, to fulfill the superintendent’s vision of service-learning “…we had to find a system that we could easily use to capture these hours. We looked at a lot of different products, and NobleHour seemed to be the one that really stood out for us and has helped us to be able to capture that data.”  The impact of these hours is changing the lives of students and community members.  Educators in Guilford County have started a successful service-learning program that is growing and taking learning beyond the classrooms and into the real world.  

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, youth impact, millennials, engagement, high school, service learning, k12, experiential learning, NYLC, National Volunteer Month

How Service-Learning Engages Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 @ 11:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Service-learning is something I’m involved in on a daily basis. I find that sometimes students and parents are ill-informed on the distinction between volunteerism and service-learning, and this can lead to confusion.  A common misconception is that service-learning is just an impressive way of saying volunteerism. Luckily, the concept is both easy to follow and implement once it is understood.  The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse gives a very comprehensive definition of service-learning: “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” What sets service-learning apart is its connection to education.  Service-learning is about applying skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life experiences that benefit the community.  

Accounting students at the University of Texas at Austin are engaging in service-learning by filing tax returns for low-income residents (Source: What Really Counts in a Service-Learning Accounting Class).  In Accounting 366P, students learn how federal tax codes work.  They also study issues affecting low-income residents such as “socio-economic issues, housing and immigration policy, and economic development.”  Then the practice what they have learned by partnering with a nonprofit called the Community Tax Center to help low-income families get the most out of their tax return.  Instructor Brian Lendecky says that, “The most important part of the learning process is actually applying your trade.”  In this class, students learned information vital to their careers, applying that knowledge, and helping members of the community. Business students engage in service-learning by helping with tax preparations.

Many students recount that the best lessons came from the stories they heard from their clients.  When completing their 55-hour service requirement for the course, they engaged in the very issues they’d heard about in their lectures.  One student describes a single mother who put six children through college debt-free.  This type of determination can’t be taught in books; it has to be found in experience.  Another remembers a woman who was hearing impaired and needed her mother to translate.  This prompted the student to learn sign language so he could communicate with more people.  In one year, 200 students filed 18,310 tax returns and helped get their clients over $31 million in returns.  This is much-needed money for families to pay bills, buy groceries, and pay off debts.  What the students gain from the course is not just how to file tax returns, but the power to use their knowledge to elevate others.

In Morris, Minn., students are completing a service-learning project that will help to restore local history.  These students are getting down in the dirt—literally—in some eerie places, but they are doing it for the right reasons.  Lead by University of Minnesota Morris Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rebecca Dean, students will be excavating, cataloging and restoring a local cemetery that has been destroyed.  The cemetery holds immense importance to local history.  The Boerners’ family plot of 12 graves dates back to the late 1800s.  The site ties back to the pioneers who originally settled in the area.  As part of this project, students will be using the archeological skills they have studied in class to gain hands-on experience.  Dean says the project’s close vicinity to the university also makes it an accessible project to her students, in contrast to excavations abroad she has preformed that are a larger financial and time commitment for students.  In addition to being a great lesson plan, the project will give back a historical site to the community.  Students will not only be prompted to master their skills, but also to consider carefully the implications of excavating a site and the importance of being delicate to local history.  (Source: Morris Sun Tribute)

Students helped plan a new hiking trail as part of a service-learning course.

In another service-learning project, students of Environmental Science at Tennessee Wesleyan College conducted research on local wildlife to help the community.  This project went beyond your typical lab assignment.  Students worked to assess a piece of property belonging to the City of Athens, Tenn. that will soon be developed into a new hiking trail.  Each group of students conducted observations of an area of the property and collected data about plants, insects, animals, soil, pollution and erosion.  They compiled the data and determined the effect of building the trail on the environment.  They delivered their recommendations to the city to help them in building the trail.  Assistant Professor Caroline Young described the objectives of the initiative: “It is my hope that by involving students in environmental projects through service-learning, they will see how the issues we discuss in the classroom directly impact our own city, and they will then understand that their efforts make an important difference in the world . . . I hope to foster a spirit of caring for the Earth in my students that will last long after my class is over.” These students engaged in the material in their classrooms and were able to help the community with their research.  As a follow up to the project, the students plan to plant trees in areas of the property where their data revealed a need for more plants.  (Source: Knox News)

These examples show different ways that service-learning helps engage students in their studies. Service-learning is becoming an increasingly popular tool in education because it encourages students to interact with their learning by applying their talents and knowledge to helping the community.  Check out local opportunities for ideas on how to incorporate service-learning in your classrooms. 

Topics: service learning, education, volunteering, experience, k12, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, community service, service learning

5 Back-to-School Tips for Success

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 @ 10:55 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

On the first day of kindergarten, there are always the kids crying and clinging to their parents not wanting to go inside, and then there are some who march in without a second thought.  Every year after that, it’s still the same except less tears and clinging to parents.  For some students, the first day can be nerve-racking.  They don’t know what to expect from their teachers and peers, and fill their heads with every worst-case possibility from not having anyone to play with during recess to getting lost between classes.  A little nervousness is normal, but by lunchtime most students have forgotten all their worries.  

nh backtoschool spot resized 600

When returning to school, kick some of the nervousness by being prepared.  Consider how last year went, and decide what went well and what you’d like to do differently.  Here are some tips for kicking bad habits of schooldays past, and starting the year anew ready to improve.  

  1. Hit the Ground Running: Don’t wait for the first report card to improve your habits.  A new year with new teachers and classes means a fresh start for students.  It’s the opportunity to do better and break old habits.  Each year there are courses more challenging from the last, so think ahead as to what subjects you may need to give more attention to this year.  Study and review a little each day so you know all the material so you aren’t cramming.  Pull yourself out of the ease of summer and start on homework the day you receive it—yes, even on the first day—to break any old habits of procrastination.  Don’t fall behind on the first week, or it will just become more and more difficult to catch up.

  2. Stay Organized:  One of the worst feelings is having done an assignment but having left it at home on the day it’s due.  Devise a system of organization on the first week.  Know what belongs in each binder, notebook, or folder so that by midterms you aren’t searching to find notes among a pile of papers haphazardly thrown into your backpack.  If your teacher allows it, periodically discard old papers you don’t need, but never through out notes and study materials you may need later.  Instead store those at home so you don’t have to carry around weight that you won’t need for class on a day-to-day basis, but you’ll still have them come finals.  One year my teacher had a poster reading, “Organization is the key to success” above her blackboard, and it’s true.  Instead of spending time looking for things, you can use your time on the things that really matter.  

  3. Manage Your Time:  In addition to managing books and papers you’ve got to manage your time.  If you’ve ever found yourself up at 2 a.m. gluing together a history project, regretting the time you spent not working on it earlier, you’ve learned the hard way the importance of using your time wisely.  Always keep in mind what the week ahead looks like.  Consider how your days with practices, games, meetings, or other extracurricular activities could conflict with tests or major deadlines, and get ahead on assignment or studying you won’t have time for later in the week.  This way you can keep doing your fun activities without sacrificing academics.  If your school doesn’t provide you with one, think about picking up a weekly planner to write down all your assignments, tests, and activities.  If you let assignments pile up you won’t be able to do your best. Managing your time properly alleviates stress and allows you more free time to do the things you love.  

  4. Get Involved:  At school there are many opportunities to be involved with clubs and sports.  This is the chance to do something you enjoy and meet people with similar interests.  You’ll make friends, gain experience, and get more out of you education.  It’ll also boost applications or resumes.  The hardest part for some students is knowing where to start.  Make sure you take advantage of any club fairs or interest meetings your school may host so you know what might interest you.  Talk to the teachers who help organize, coach, or advise for different clubs and athletics. If you’re still lacking some confidence, talk to another student involved or bring a friend along.  

  5. Ask Your Teachers for Help:  Teachers are there to help you, so don’t be shy to ask.  If you find yourself in a tough spot with the material, talk to your teacher after class to get advice on getting some extra help.  If on a particular week you’re stressed despite your time management with lots of assignments or tests coincidentally at the same time, explain to your teachers the situation ahead of time to see if you can get an extension, but don’t make a habit of it, and I wouldn’t advise coming the day before with excuses.  Teachers should be interested in your success, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice and help when you need it.  

Learning is the most important part of school.  As you return to school, consider trading in bad habits from last year for better ones this year.  This process of learning about your own capabilities should continue throughout the year.  Constantly evaluate what techniques are working that you should keep up with, and what’s not helping and needs to be changed or improved.  Here are just a few tips, but each individual must understand his or her own learning style in order to achieve.  Good luck in the new school year!  

Topics: education, k12, millennials, back to school, higher ed

NobleHour Awards Scholarships for Students' Volunteer Service

Posted by Keara Ziegerer on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @ 04:56 PM

On Sunday, NobleHour awarded three scholarships to students at Guilford County Schools’ annual “Cool to Serve” event. Hundreds of graduates attended the event, which celebrated the class of 2013’s service-learning accomplishments.

NobleHour Service-Learning Scholarship Winners

Jose Oliva received the NobleHour Platinum Award - $1,000 for having the "Most Impactful Service-Learning Project", Austin Elmore won $500 for the "Best Social/Global Impact Service-Learning Project, and Billy Hawkains won $250 for the Best Community/Civic Engagement Service-Learning Project. 

“...For me, helping people is not about awards, money, hours or anything,” said Oliva in an interview with The News & Record. 

“...When I think about service, I think about people smiling.”

To date, Guilford County students have logged more than 250,000 hours using NobleHour. In addition to the scholarships, students who served more than 225 hours earned a Service-Learning Diploma, and those with more than 100 hours received a Service-Learning Exemplary Award. In order to qualify for recognition, the students’ service must be unpaid, address a community need, and include investigation, preparation and planning, action, reflection, and demonstration components. NobleHour facilitates these requirements through its comprehensive database, hour tracking, and reflection tools.

“By using NobleHour we are able to capture the economic impact our students make within the community.” said Yvonne Foster, Character Development & Service-Learning Coordinator for Guilford County Schools.

The event was put on by the GCS Character Development team, which promotes character education, civic education, and service learning in order to “equip students with the tools and motivation necessary to be the change they wish to see in the world.”

"It is such a heartwarming feeling to see youth involved and for the right reasons!" said Foster.

Guilford County Schools&squot; "Cool to Serve" event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image via The News & Record


About NobleHour

NobleHour is based in Lakeland, FL and was started by a team of knowledgeable business investors, representing over 70 years of unparalleled entrepreneurial and business experience. They developed SweatMonkey.org in 2005 as an online service learning management platform for students and schools. SweatMonkey was used by countless organizations such as the YMCA, the SPCA, the United Way of North Central Florida, and the University of Florida. SweatMonkey was rebranded and launched in 2012 as NobleHour.com, an engaging online community platform that includes content sharing, a database of volunteer and job opportunities and events, hour tracking tools for tracking community service hours, and community impact measurement tools. NobleHour's mission is to provide an engaging platform to help connect people with their communities to empower civic engagement. For more information visit www.noblehour.com.

 

 

Topics: service learning, service, education, volunteering, graduates, k12

Ten Ways Teens Can Get Involved in Service this Summer

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 @ 09:56 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

When school stops for the summer, students are all relieved to be free from homework, lectures, assignments, and tests.  It’s time to sleep in, hang out with friends, or travel to the beach.  Summer is generally a fun and relaxing time, but some of this summer free time can be spent engaged in meaningful service.  Get off the couch or computer and be part of the community. Here are a few ways to incorporate service into your summer:

1. Expand on Current Projects: Think of some of the service work you already do, and consider using your extra time to greater your impact. Expand your commitments by signing up for more hours during the week at the library or soup kitchen you volunteer at during the school year.  Use the summer to reflect on your service projects during the year and consider how you can help the nonprofits you work with adapt to changes or expand their outreach. 

2. Try Something New: Always wanted to volunteer somewhere but never had the time during school?  Why not look into a nearby zoo, museum, science center, or visual arts center to see who is looking for volunteers. Sometimes teens have to pass up opportunities that are during school hours, but in the summer you can finally take advantage of some fun opportunities during the day.

Students Volunteering with the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability Summer Program

3. Work at a Summer Camp:  Whether you loved going to summer camp as a kid or dreaded it, you probably remember seeing the teen volunteers helping the counselors. Now you’ve outgrown Day Camp and it’s time to graduate into being one of the “big kids” you once looked up to who refereed dodge ball and set up the finger painting.  Many camps allow teens to start as trainee volunteers and then move up to working as counselors one or two summers later.  You’ll be put in charge of all sorts of activities like sports, crafts, games, and snack time.  You’re sure to find something you enjoy doing.  Look up camp programs at your local community center to see what opportunities are in store. 

4. Host a Service or Donation Event: Incorporate service into you social calendar.  Invite friends to a pool party and ask them to bring canned or dry foods for a local food bank.  Get your crafty pals together to make jewelry to sell or have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to charity.  Convince your family to participate in a beach or river clean up.  Whichever you decide to do, participating in service with friends and family allows you to spend your summer time with those you care about while helping others.

5. Help the Local Animal Shelter: If you love animals, this is a great place to spend your summer. Lend a helping hand in walking, cleaning, and caring for animals without homes.  You’ll want to keep coming back to help your cute furry friends during the summer.

6. Build your Career through Volunteering: Apply to volunteer internships this summer where you can gain professionalism skills and experience.  With so much free time you can donate more hours into learning about fields that interest you.  You’ll build connections and experience in a field you’re interested in, as well as build up your college application by using your summer to learn and grow.

7. Help a Neighbor: Offer to do yard work for a neighbor who is unable to.  Get to work planting some new flowers to brighten their day, clean up the overgrown bushes, and mow the grass.  It may be hot and laborious, but you’ll be using your time to put a smile on someone’s face. 

Tech-Savvy Students Volunteering8. Visit Nursing Homes: Visit the elderly and keep them company by reading books, playing games, or just chatting for a while.  Help host events and activities.  Tech-savvy teens can help someone connect with email or social networking to keep in touch with distant relatives.  Just spending some time with a senior citizen can brighten his or her day and yours too.  You’ll make new friends and hear stories outside the texting and tweeting generation. 


9. Be an Envinronmental Advocate:  The environment, and the damage humans are causing, is a growing concern today.  Do your part to help Mother Earth.  Plant trees and gardens to clean the air.  Learn how to compost to help your new plants thrive.  Connect with local organizations to promote recycling or teach people what can and cannot be recycled at your local plant.  Participate in park clean up events to free local wildlife from litter and pollution.  During the summer we spend more time outside playing sports, going to the beach, hiking, swimming and more, so it’s important to give back to the earth.  To continue enjoying life here on our only planet, it’s vital that we put time and effort into keeping it sustainable, healthy, and clean. 

10. Host a Book Drive:  Not all public schools are funded equally, and cutbacks make matters worse. You may not be thinking about school in the summer, but organizing a book drive will help students when class is back in session. Access to more books means students can improve their literacy, reading comprehension skills, and critical thinking.  Starting in advance means you’ll have more time and collect more books and donations by the time summer is over.

When the summer’s over, you’ll want to have fond memories to look back on.  Knowing that some of your time spent was to benefit others is an extra bonus.  Remember that service should not be boring to you.  This is your personal contribution to others and to a cause you care about, and, since it’s summer, it should also be fun.  Think about what interests you and what you love to do, and then try to share your passion with others to better the world.  Here’s to the summer, and to making it both memorable and meaningful.  

Keep checking NobleHour all summer for local volunteer opportunities.

Topics: service, education, volunteering, k12, nonprofit, summer, summer fun

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