Service learning: More than just community service!

Explore a simple five-step process that helps youth in your youth organization have the most success with service-learning projects.

The 4-H Youth Experiencing Action (YEA) guide is designed for people who work with youth between the ages of 14 and 19 in the area of community service. The guide contains hands-on activities to use with a team of youth. Many adults provide youth with the opportunity to participate in community service, however, a service learning project can teach youth many more lessons. Through service learning projects, youth learn how to work through the steps of organizing a project. YEA stresses the importance for adults to let youth be actively involved in the total community service project from planning to evaluation.

The “ABC’s of aYEA Project” outlines five basic steps in helping youth complete a community service project. The first step is to help youth select a project based on the needs of the community. Start with having youth brainstorm a list of community service possibilities. Youth can complete an assessment of the community in many different ways such as reading the local newspaper, searching the web or visiting with local groups. Youth then plan the activity. YEA suggests keeping in mind the overall goal of the service project as the planning is completed.

Once plans are completed, youth should publicize the project. Using the media – such as radio spots and newspaper articles – will help to create an awareness of the project.

Doing the community service work is most times the most exciting part of the project for youth. After the project is finished, youth will need to talk about the experience and discover what they actually learned from participating in the service project. How did the project impact the community? How did they feel about doing the work? How would they change the project if done again? The YEA curriculum states the the reflection is the most crucial in developing a community service attitude.

The final step in the process is to celebrate the completion of the project.

Service learning takes place when adults help youth plan, conduct, evaluate and celebrate a community service project. It’s more than community service – it’s developing a skill set that lets youth to take the lead in their learning process and use the resulting skills to conduct other projects on their own.

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