Getting and giving the most out of youth community service projects

Youth learn more through completing community service projects when they are prepared using the Michigan 4-H YEA curriculm.

Service projects are a perfect way for youth to help the community and these projects are also a perfect way for youth to learn about their community and people that they are serving. According to Michigan State University Extension, service projects help young people step into the lives of the people that they are trying to help. A successful community service project for young people teaches them about the people and the communities that they serve. They come away with a new understanding of a way of life different than their own.

The Youth Experiencing Action (YEA) Curriculum by MSU Extension suggests some activities to help youth learn how to prepare for a community service project. The curriculum describes a community service project as a “give-and-take experience” where volunteers share their skills with others and gain knowledge in return. Give and Take is the name of an activity where youth learn to put themselves in the position of the person that they want to help. Through role playing, they are asked to work with a partner and picture themselves in various roles such as being a person with blindness or being a classmate walking in the same direction. Other roles may be being a mother visiting a soup kitchen with her three children or being a volunteer at the soup kitchen. As with any experiential learning activity, the give and take activity continues with talking it over and sharing what people felt during the exercise and how those feelings can be applied in a real situation.

Another activity, When Others Decide, has youth think about a time when someone made a decision for them without consulting them. Also, youth talk about the situations as a group through questions such as, “How did you feel when someone else made decisions for you?” and asking how they felt when they have made decisions for others. The discussion ends with youth contemplating the importance of knowing the people they serve and not assuming they know what people want.

Check out the Michigan 4-H Youth Experiencing Action Curriculum to help young people plan their community service activities.

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