5 Ways to use Service Learning to Run a Successful Food Drive

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Shay Ernest on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 @ 11:52 AM

Service Learning Curriculum Ideas for Food Drive Projects that will Maximize Impact

Food_DriveFood drives are intended to educate students about food inequity and encourage students to take action. But is this what is indeed happening in class rooms and campuses? When not properly planned, food drives can do just the opposite, producing unintended consequences that reinforce or exacerbate stereotypes students hold about people living in poverty. Today we are providing ways to use service learning to overcome common challenges of food drives and maximize your intended meaningful impact. 

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Let us take one step back. To avoid negative outcomes, we need to first understand when there is an imbalance of education and action, food drives can unintentionally be piloted in the wrong direction. A private high school in San Francisco used to take students to the poorer parts of town to volunteer at soup kitchens and food banks for a few hours at a time. Malcolm Singer, the school director of community service-learning, explains what can happen when there is action without proper education, “What we realized, when we were driving them back to school, was that (students) were saying the same things about hunger and poverty that they had been saying the day before. We realized we were reinforcing the same negative stereotypes.”[1] The same problem often occurs with food drives-- as there is typically little or no interaction between students and the community their donations are intended to help, and food drives may include little education about the root causes of hunger and poverty. The way to create a food drive that positively impacts both students and the community is simple – educate students about the issues of social justice and show them how to take action. Once a student becomes aware of the injustices in the world, they aspire to be a part of the improvement.

EDUCATE

Nearly fifty million Americans face food insecurity.[2] Education should be centered on the root causes of hunger and poverty with curriculum focusing on who, what, where, and why. Because food insecurity is such a multifaceted issue, it lends itself to easily being incorporated in different areas of study. Below is a list of curriculum ideas for starting discussion and research projects (please keep in mind many of the topics below are not exclusive to the subject they are listed under as there is much intersection between the issues:

  • Health
    • Research effects of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes.
    • Compare rates of obesity in countries around the world with rates of malnutrition/hunger.
    • Examine nutritional value verse cost of food.
    • Look at MyPlate and USDA to understand what makes a healthy diet.
    • Create a healthy menu of one week for a family of four, price how much it cost to eat healthy.
  • Geography
    • Define and examine the characteristics of food deserts.
    • Identify the causes and consequences of food deserts.
    • How does the neighborhood influence the choices made about health.
    • Analyze the top five states with greatest food insecurity.
  • Economics
    • Research SNAP and the Farm Bill.
    • Create a formula to address the income needed to eliminate hunger; how much does it cost each week for a family of four to eat healthy? A single person?
    • Define the 2014 poverty guidelines.
    • Create a budget for a set area (include housing, electricity, water, transportation, insurances, phone, internet); using the area’s minimum wage at forty hours a week as income, analyze how much is left over for food; discuss how unforeseen circumstances (sickness, school expenses, etc.) can affect food purchases.
    • Determine what a family of four at poverty level would receive in government assistance, could they feed their family healthily for this amount? If so, for how long? What income is needed?
    • Have students track their own health budget for a week, compare to various income levels and assistance programs.
  • Social Sciences
    • Study laws and policies impacting rate of hunger, poverty, and lack of access to healthy food in America. Are new policies needed?
    • Compare current rates of hunger in the US to rates during the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Conduct comparative study for how others (various religions, cultures, ethnic groups, countries) approach the process of providing “charity” to the needy.
    • Comparative study on who is hungry (rural vs urban, ethnic groups, age, etc.)

ACTION

Now the fun part of service learning: taking action! Engage your students in a meaningful service project to enhance their learning and provide guided practice in social responsibility. Don’t just let the food drive end when sufficient amount of cans are collected, connect the students to the community. Finding a food bank to work with will probably be the easiest part out of everything; there are food banks all across the nation. Feeding America is one of the largest food bank networks providing over 3.3 billion meals trough food pantries and meal programs. They have 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries serving more than 46 million people each year. Feeding America has a search on their website to help you find you’re your local food bank. Conducting a food drive will require a little planning. Youth Service America provides an in-depth, mainly logistical guide to running a food drive, appropriate for the high school level. No Kid Hungry also has a guide to integrating service learning and eating healthy for classrooms. Please note that both of these materials can be adapted to fit students of different ages.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Canned food drives can be seen as placing a “Band-Aid” on the issues of hunger and food inequity. Service learning projects are the chance for a cure – an emerging generation of socially conscious students dedicated to empowering others, as well as themselves.

“My motto in life is 'If you think it, you can do it' and if we all apply that thought we can end hunger the world over.” (Dionne Warwick)


[1] http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-32-fall-2007/feature/beyond-canned-food-drive

[2] http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html

Photo courtesy of Dolly Duplantier

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, service learning, food drive, service learning projects

Finding Fulfillment through Service-Learning Courses

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 @ 01:39 PM

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

Around this time of year, high school graduates throw their graduation caps in the air, parents sob and wonder where the time has gone, and another generation begins their transition into adult life.  For those students whose post high school plans involve higher education, the time to register for classes is quickly approaching.  As students begin this new phase in their life and start thinking about their options for the first semester of college or university, service-learning should be a topic on their mind.  Including service-learning courses in your college experience enhances your knowledge in a subject, benefits the community, and bridges the gap between a university lecture hall and the world waiting outside.  

Students engage in service-learning.

Service-learning differs from plain volunteerism and community service. Unlike volunteerism, service-learning incorporates topics and concepts discussed in the classroom and applies them to real world problems.  Service-learning teaches through experiential learning.  Students are engaged by their teachers both in the course subject area and in the ways they are challenged to use this knowledge in the greater community.  Nazareth College, a place of higher education renowned for its commitment to including service in the education process, defines experiential learning as:

“Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience in a real world context. Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values.  Facilitated and guided practice, reflection and evaluation are all essential components of this transformative method of learning.”

Service-learning is a unique educational tool and experience because it stimulates critical thinking and problem solving while also asking students to consider the consequences of their knowledge and their involvement in the community.  

Students who opt to take service-learning courses as part of their university experience are more fulfilled and engaged in class.  Students involved in service-learning are happier and more excited about their classes because they are involved in their learning and in critical thinking. Rather than just listening to lectures, students are engaged with the course material, their professors, classmates, and community.  Students are also allowed to explore and act upon their values and beliefs by making an impact in the community.  They develop critical thinking, problem solving, and research skills by using the knowledge they gain in the classroom to tackle real life issues.  By working with others and solving complex social issues, students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, which cannot be taught through lectures and tests.  By engaging students in a variety of settings, service-learning can build knowledge, character, and civic responsibility, which are useful both to the students enrolled in the course and the community they engage with.  

Download the Benefits of Service-Learning Infographic

Communities and organizations that partner with higher education institutions to develop service-learning curriculum benefit from the budding minds and dedication of young people.  Service-learning has a positive place in the community by dealing with unmet needs.  According to Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education, the top issues addressed through university service programs are K-12 education, hunger, housing and homelessness. Through service-learning, students interact with diverse groups of people and other cultures in their community.  By confronting these issues and developing service projects in their classes, students become more aware of social issues and causes.  They consider the causes and symptoms of these issues and how their actions can alleviate different facets of a concern in the community.  In service-learning courses, students are not just asked to consider new ideas in textbooks and notes but also the different viewpoints and positions of people in their community.  This allows them to be more empathetic towards others and to consider the impact that their actions in their personal, scholarly, and professional lives have on different groups in the community. Both in their course work and their free time, students learn to ensure a better future for themselves and take initiative in satisfying unmet needs in their community.  

Service-learning courses can have a positive impact on a student’s future and career.  Service-learning is a way of gaining professional experience, fulfilling university credit requirements, and strengthening one’s resume with service work.  In many service-learning courses, students will be able to get out of the classroom and network with professionals in their field as an integral part of the coursework. Starting to build these networks while still in school can help students find internships and jobs in the future.  The experience gained from service-learning classes provides a head start in the professional field and a valuable set of stories through which can help to demonstrate innovative thinking and dedication in applications or interviews.  Apart from its impact on a person’s professional life, hopefully a service driven education will be a meaningful experience that compels students to continue giving back to the community in the future.  

Congratulations to this year’s high school graduates. If you’re a student interested in service-learning, be sure to consider talking to your university adviser about service-learning courses and opportunities at your school. There are many colleges and universities that are engaged in service learning, and more courses are added every day. Expand the impact of your service-learning by connecting with local organizations and other students interested in creating social change.
Image used under Creative Commons License via Tulane Public Relations
 

 

Topics: service learning

How Community Engagement and Public Service Work Together

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Wed, May 28, 2014 @ 07:58 AM

“Empowering NobleLeaders”- How Community Engagement and Public Service Work Together

We believe when high school and college curriculum incorporate service, community involvement, and social issues, students become more engaged in their learning as well as develop a strong foundation to be active, informed, and changemaking citizens in their communities both now and in the future. Learning about civic engagement and serving with community organizations helps expose students to the diversity in their community, the diverse problems that affect certain groups, and the interrelated barriers to solutions. This new knowledge becomes power for many students who find their passion, niche/personal cause, or career choice through service activities, and also through learning about (hopefully while simultaneously being motivated by) related social, cultural, and economic factors during class lectures and discussion.

A service-learning model is perfect for solidifying classroom material through community service and engagement. Though there are several ways to promote civic engagement among high school and college students, service-learning includes key components of reflection and demonstration so that students can process their community engagement experience and then effectively share with classmates what they learned. When students become informed, active, and passionate about their community at a young age, they are more likely to continue to be active citizens throughout their lives. Research shows that students involved in service-learning are more likely to be involved in local, state, and federal elections, in addition to working for and supporting the issues or government candidates they care about as young professionals, later as parents, and much later as retirees. Not only are students with a community service or service learning background more inclined to be continued active community members, they are also better equipped to serve and be a leader in their community through public or government office. 

Community Engagement and Public Service are sometimes used as synonyms, but they are not identical. Community or civic engagement can take several forms, but generally includes individual and collective actions designed to recognize and take on issues of public concern through political and non-political processes. Civic engagement is also at the root of democratic governance, for which citizens have the right and protection to define the public good, to establish the methods for promoting public good, and the opportunity to change institutions that do not align. Public service typically refers to being a leader in one’s community and running for public office or a government position. Public service candidates with experience in civic engagement or a history of community service will not only be more successful during an election, but also more effective at leading their jurisdiction and initiating policies that improve their quality of life.

Students engaged in service-learning.

Citizens who volunteer in the community, are involved with nonprofit organizations, or participate in local, state, or national elections know the value and necessity of community engagement— awareness of community issues and needs, using their skills and knowledge to make a difference, and voting for candidates and policies that address public concerns. The most effective way to engage more citizens in society is to engage people of all ages in their community through service, educate them on the social, cultural, economic, and political barriers to the public good, as well as provide them the tools and encouragement to be informed and active during elections. Paul Loeb, a social and political activist and author dedicated to student civic engagement, urges it is educators “responsibility to use our classrooms to explore the difficult issues of our time.” Our country and world needs students who are knowledgeable and passionate about community problems in addition to being committed to making a difference and finding solutions to complex challenges.


Campus Compact is a nonprofit higher education association that compiles resources for and supports all forms of civic engagement on college and university campuses. Campus Compact constantly gathers tools for educators, celebrates volunteers, and develops programs for higher education all for the ultimate goal of increasing civic engagement and community service across every institution. Their vision for the future includes the belief “that our country cannot afford to educate a generation that acquires knowledge without understanding how it can benefit society or influence democratic decision-making… We recognize that higher education must respond to community needs and democratic responsibilities with the intellectual and professional capacities demanded by today’s challenges.” NobleHour.com is also a great place for people to find opportunities for involvement and resources for empowerment. 

Community engagement is very important for all involved-- the community group or underserved persons, the student, partnering organizations, and the school or institution must be encouraged by college presidents, professors, school administrators, and teachers. Society needs an educated, motivated, socially conscious, and engaged public with a strong background in civic engagement ready to continually serve and work for the public good. Civic engagement as a student at a young age leads to a life of active citizenship and service.

 

Topics: service learning, community engagement, community service, higher education

How Service & Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Tue, May 20, 2014 @ 07:30 AM


"Empowering NobleLeaders": How Service & Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

As mentioned in our last “Empowering NobleLeaders” post where we highlighted this year’s 25th annual National Service Learning Conference as well as the Global Youth Service Day, the numbers of students, faculty, administrators, and community organizers who take volunteerism to the next level with service learning and active civic engagement are incredible, increasing, and very much needed in our society today. Not only are the opportunities to serve one’s community plentiful and diverse, so are the issues surrounding poverty, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, civil rights and immigration status in Students combat social problems through service. our local and global communities[i]. In our society, where it seems resources are increasingly scarce, the need for students to learn about and take action towards social and environmental problems is critical for the future of a just & peaceful society, and it contributes towards the ability for any person from any background to realize their potential in the society where they live and work.

More and more, teachers of a variety of grade levels, including K-12 and higher education, are employing service learning curriculum to guide students in addressing and reflecting on complex social issues while learning about course material and earning grades. Service learning cultivates social awareness, community engagement, problem-solving skills, and initiative for both learning and taking action. Service learning can provide the ultimate experiential education--- motivating students to explore the complexity of intertwined community needs, use their knowledge to do something about them, and continue to work for change even after a final grade is made. According to Cathryn Berger Kaye and Maureen Connolly, two innovative leaders in curriculum for service learning, in their article Social Justice and Service Learning,

“The issues we face as a planet have risen to a level that calls us all into action. We can all be engaged in learning about and addressing critical interrelated issues-- hunger, potable water, climate change, population migration, loss of habitat, illiteracy, gun violence, war-- while contributing to the betterment of ourselves and others.”[ii]

Service learning creates meaningful connections between people, helping us to feel invested in our community and emphatic for less fortunate people all over world. Through helping others, students gain valuable social and self awareness. When service is part of academic curriculum, there is great potential for significant civic engagement, enhanced active learning, and using classroom knowledge for a public purpose or community impact. Berger Kaye has found that service learning, when effectively engaged, leads to the development of students into change agents who are aware and passionate about lessening the inequities and injustices created by social structures in their communities[iii] – the foundation for the ability of service to spark social justice.

 Students of all ages often complain that the material they learn in certain classes is not useful and thus focus only on short term memorization for the final exam. 

Discover even more benefits of service-learning Service learning curriculum directly combats this occurrence through an initial survey of student interests, skills, and talents in addition to a social analysis of the community issues and needs being studied in relation to course material. If students feel connected to or personalize a community issue, they are more motivated to learn about and improve the situation. It is important for service learning educators to always consider the community needs first to create the most useful solutions as well as to emphasize for their students the importance of collective social justice and well-being.

Social justice is both a process and a goal. The process focuses on the understanding and change of social structures that create inequality. The goal is a global community with social responsibility toward and with others, where resources are equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.[iv]

Service learning is the key to educating students and preparing them to live purposeful, civically engaged, and socially responsible lives in the 21st century. General guidelines and more detailed service learning resources for both educators and students can be found in Don’t Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count. Not only is it in the students’ best interest to explore community engagement for both altruistic and practical reasons, today it is an educator's responsibility to provide what is needed for students to recognize, understand, and ultimately address the real life social issues learned in the classroom. The world needs innovative leaders to solve complex national and social issues and students deserve an education that will prepare them for changemaker roles. It is no longer enough to keep students engaged in class-- they must become engaged in their communities in ways that both alleviate suffering or inequality for others as well as bring meaning to the articles, books, and historical accounts read throughout the course. This takes special preparation and commitment, but truly makes the classroom experience more enjoyable for students and teachers alike. Service Learning for Social Change: A Curriculum Development Workbook is a wonderful tool for teachers exploring how to incorporate service learning created by the Service Learning Institute at California State University, Monterey Bay.

As Helen Keller said, “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Today this critical pursuit must start with the education and service of students.

 

[i]
[i] Berger Kaye, Cathryn & Connolly, Maureen. “Social Justice and Service Learning.”CBK Associates, 2013.

[ii][ii] Berger Kaye, Cathryn & Connolly, Maureen. “Social Justice and Service Learning.”CBK Associates, 2013.

[iii][iii] Berger Kaye, Cathryn & Connolly, Maureen. “Social Justice and Service Learning.”CBK Associates, 2013.

[iv][iv]http://studentactivities.tamu.edu/site_files/Definitions%20Related%20to%20Service.pdf. Texas A&M Department of Student Activities, 2009.

 

Start measuring the impact of your service-learning initiatives.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, social justice

Why Students Should Track Service Hours

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, May 19, 2014 @ 10:43 AM

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

When you demonstrate how much time you put into something, you show how much of yourself you are willing to give for it.  Tracking hours is the simplest, most efficient, and most accessible way to demonstrate your community engaemenet and show what is important to you.  Hour tracking is a valuable tool for any volunteer because it allows you to keep a record of your progress and hard work.

Students can keep track of their volunteer hours for scholarships, awards, reflection and other purposes.

Particularly for students, hour tracking helps display your volunteerism for college admissions, scholarships, grants, and leadership opportunities.  For students with packed schedules, keeping track of these hours is the easiest way to prevent leaving out your accomplishments on applications.  Additionally, having more hours to show will help you stand out among other applicants, as well as help provide inspiration and substance for application essays. By taking a few minutes to enter each activity, you save yourself time and stress in the long run, as trying to remember and count all your volunteer work after several years is difficult.  Using tools like NobleHour saves you the trouble of having to go through school records or forms to verify your volunteer work.  Once you track your hours online, they are saved and you can share them at anytime.

"There are some hours that I didn’t log, but I did keep track of a lot of them because it made me feel happy for helping out and seeing how much I’ve contributed. I think [tracking hours] is pretty valuable because it allows you to see how much you’re doing, encourage you to work for more, and just be able to be organized about what you are doing.  It’s cool because you can see what you’ve contributed to what area.  For example, I’ve done a lot of service work at nursing homes and with the elderly, but not as much with the youth.  The hour tracking allows me to get a full grasp of that," said Tiffany, a senior at Grimsley High School. Tiffany enjoys volunteering and has tracked 293 hours in the past three years.

Altruistic volunteers may see tracking hours as a mere vanity.  However, this certainly is not the case. For civically engaged young people, service is done to the beating of their hearts not to the ticking of a stopwatch.  Fear that their natural compulsion to serve may be masked by numbers leads some students to feel that counting their service hours cheapens the work they have done.  However, tracking volunteer hours is not egotistic or selfish.  It is simply another way of showing your dedication and commitment to a particular cause or to volunteerism in general.  Sometimes seeing the amount of time put into a cause helps you reflect on why it was important to get involved, who benefited from the time you gave, what you learned from your hours of experience, and why you will continue to serve.  Showing how much time you have put into your community also shows your passion for service, and helps the organization you work with understand its impact.  

9675_72608_Gcvb7SgK5nOIN9K_gcs_impact_400x460_thumb"I am not keeping track of hours for a reward.  I just like to see what areas I have done a lot of work in and areas I could work to improve my community more.  I think tracking hours could definitely be something that people do for an award, but personally, I am able to not think about that.  I’ve received certificates thanking me for service, but hour tracking doesn’t affect meaning.  It allows you to visualize.  It’s truly not about how many hours you do, but how you use them and the difference you make.  I just see the hours tracking as a tool for organization," Tiffany said.

Though you may not feel that you will need to keep track of your hours, you never know down the road when you will need a record of the work you have done.  Even if you have already completed the required number of hours for school or awards, it helps to continue the practice of tracking hours because it shows how you have grown through helping your community and how you continue to pledge your time to others.  Having a holistic record of your volunteer hours attests to your leadership abilities, your investment in the community, and the value of your time and energy. 

Keeping records of volunteer hours allows students to manage their time and reflect on the lessons they have learned from volunteering.  It also keeps students accountable by safeguarding records and verification of the hours completed.  Start tracking your Noble Impact ™ today.

 

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, college admissions

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.

______________________________________________________________________________


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

Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

Reflection in life, especially when positive, is almost always beneficial. The act of reflection can increase feelings of self-perception personal purpose, and community awareness, as well as increase understanding as to one's role in the greater community. We would like to share with you the importance of reflection on service experiences and offer some insight for both faculty and students on how to do service reflections.  Reflection is an integral component of volunteer service.

While a student is volunteering, the service experience can become more meaningful through constant questioning of motivations, asking why one is helping, and keeping those ideas at the forefront of their mind. A student may maintain their motivation to help by keeping track of both the work they do, as well as their initial and ongoing reactions to their service activities. Reflection before, during, and after a service experience is key, to set goals, and to remember and document observations, emotions, and activities. The most important reflection may come after when the student connects their individual experience to the bigger picture, whether it’s a wider community or national/international issue, cultural or environmental cause, or institutional motive. With reflection and further research, a student will gain deeper understanding of oneself, their community, and society. The more one reflects on their volunteer experiences, the more one knows what they like, dislike, and can identify personal strengths. Additionally, students can then use their service reflections to decide how to channel their experiences into greater action or next steps, which can be beneficial both for the individual (e.g., explore new passions or possible career choices) and the community (e.g., organizing one river clean-up to be an ongoing project with other students and community members in the area). 

How to do Service Reflections: 

For students volunteering, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. As you begin to look back on your work, here are some helpful ways to take stock and connect to the bigger picture. 

Get started with three easy questions:

What? So what? and Now what? These questions are commonly paired with community service to help participants think about how to channel their experiences into action or next steps. Answer them on your own or with other volunteers. 

What? 

How would you describe the actual work you’ve been doing? What different types of situations have you been involved in and learned from? Whether it’s playing with kids or talking to an elderly person or filing hospital records, describe your day-to-day work. 

So What? 

What did these actions mean? Who did they impact? How did they impact you? How did they affect the community you worked with? How did they contribute to the larger impact your organization (or you) is making? 

Now what? 

Now that you’ve done your service, what are you going to do next? Are there other channels of involvement? What else would you like to know about your site or issue? How will you take this experience and put it to use helping others? What ripple effect will your experiences make for yourself and others? 

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

Reflection is a key component of service learning in and out of the classroom. It can be accomplished in many different avenues that students can choose for themselves to fit their learning and creative styles. Encourage students to explore these styles and decide how they would like to record and reflect on their volunteer experience

Each time a student volunteers, it is beneficial to take a few minutes to make notes about what they did, what they learned, and how the experience impacted them. These notes will be useful for future reflecting on experiences as well as for possible use in creating a final presentation for a class. NobleHour has an work reflection tool for students exactly for this purpose.  

Engaging in conversation with others (e.g., friends, professors, family) to explain what the student has been doing and why it is important to them is another way to reflect. With a volunteer supervisor’s permission, a student may be able to take photos and document their adventures in service (there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and use these visuals later for reflection and sharing. NobleHour enables students to share their photos, videos, and reflections using the Contribute and Share tool.  Faculty members should encourage student reflection.

One of the main goals of service learning is that students will continue or expand upon their community service even after the final project is done. If students are interested in learning more about their cause or organization, people at the volunteer site are great resources for other contacts and groups that are doing similar work and organizing similar events. 

To maximize the service learning curriculum, components of reflection throughout the semester for students should be interspersed in the syllabus. Class discussion, journal entry writing, online posts, article critiques on surrounding service topics, and a final demonstration or project of the students’ volunteer experiences are wonderful and diverse ways to get students engaged and thinking about their experiences.  

Teachers can guide students' reflection processes in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: discussion, role play, and journaling

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

  • Describe what happened.
  • Examine the difference made.
  • Discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • Place experience in a larger contect.
  • Consider project improvements.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Identify questions.
  • Encourage comments from partners and recipients.
  • Receive feedback.

To fulfill one of her global health minor requirements in college, Liz took a course called Core Issues in Global Health: Community Health Practice for Refugees. The professor employed a Community Based Service Learning syllabus guideline which included student-led discussions, lectures, presentations, several community guest speakers, papers, posters, and a community engagement project. The class concluded with each student creating a material (paper, art, video, or article) that described their community refugee experience and also would benefit the organization. The professor made it a class requirement to get out into the surrounding community and see for themselves the information they learned about. Liz's work as an after school tutor with Fugee’s Family outside of Emory every week for one semester created meaning for the statistics and health disparities they were learning about for refugee populations in America. She is now able to look back over her paper and final project, and remember how engaged she felt both in class and with the young refugee soccer players at the Fugee’s school house. 

Service learning and service reflections are valuable student and teacher tools and provide numerous opportunities for personal growth and community service. The more these ideas and actions are incorporated into classrooms, from K-12 to higher education, the better students, communities, and the world will be.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the power of volunteering in diverse environments and with diverse people.

 

"Writing in the Rapids" by Julie Jordan Scott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, abroad, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, high school, community service, engaged learning, learning strategies, community connections, alternative spring breaks, reflection

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