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Engaging Youth in Service-learning

March 2007 article

National & Global Youth Service Day is April 20-22, 2007. It is the perfect time to help teens plan a service-learning project and be part of the largest youth service event in the world. The National Crime Prevention Council is a partner of Youth Service America and supports young people in developing creative crime prevention service-learning projects. In general, a service-learning project has three parts-- service, linking, and learning:

  • Service: This component addresses a real community need that your team has identified. Your service-learning project should solve a problem or help solve one.
  • Linking: The service-learning project not only meets a real community need but also links to classroom goals.
  • Learning: Reflection is important to service-learning. This means that youth not only do the project but also think about it (feelings, contributions, challenges, new skills learned, etc.). It is also very important to celebrate the success of your project, acknowledge the people that helped your team complete the project, and share your success with them and other teens.

Community Works (CW) requires instructors and students to perform service-learning projects. This component is important and fun. Once young people have gained the necessary knowledge and skills, Sessions 9–11 of the Community Works curriculum challenge them to participate in service-learning projects. Through these projects, they apply what they have learned to address a community problem they have identified. They work together to assess their community’s needs, set goals, plan and execute a project, and reflect on the process. Students complete the program with an increased sense of self-esteem and the belief that they have played a positive role in their community and have a stake in its future.

Instructors may find during the course of their CW program that the students are excited about a project idea but may have limited time to complete the project. Your students may undertake projects that are designed to be of short, medium, or long duration as described below.

  • Short projects can be completed in one or two class meetings. Example: Create safety tips posters or table tent cards and display them in the cafeteria or community center.
  • Medium projects can require a full day to a week of planning. Example: Develop and role-play case studies from one of the topical sessions in the curriculum before an audience of younger students.
  • Long projects can take weeks to plan and execute and may be ongoing. Example: Collect old cell phones with chargers to be distributed to victims of domestic violence for use in emergency situations.

Service-learning is a powerful teaching strategy, so start planning your service-learning project today!

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