How to start a community service learning project at your school

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Community service learning projects can teach lessons that last a lifetime. For students, these school projects build character strengths like leadership, gratitude and kindness. For community groups, they bring an infusion of energy and resources. Ready to start a community service learning project at your school? Below, check out Shannon Brake’s TED-Ed Innovation Project notes on how to make it a success:

Gary Haugen’s TED Talk, “The Hidden Reason For Poverty the World Needs to Address Now,” made me realize that we can never assume that we understand the reasons behind the hardships of others, unless we take the time to listen with the intent to learn. This project took that idea further and introduced it to students in my school’s TED-Ed Club through the exploration of a pressing social issue in our community: substance abuse. To explore the issue of substance abuse, our TED-Ed Club partnered with Omega House, a local community organization that assists people recovering from substance abuse. Our aim was to be of service and also to learn: to progress into the deeper and more “hidden” reasons beneath addiction, going beyond assumptions and surface biases. [Read more about this TED-Ed Innovation Project here.]

5 tips for a successful community service learning project at your school:

  1. Schedule time in class each week for students to discuss, reflect, and work together on the project.
  2. Encourage students to seek a deeper understanding of the issues involved via research and observation.
  3. Plan a field trip for students to meet and talk with people helped by the community organization.
  4. Guide students to develop meaningful interview questions for their field trip.
  5. Incorporate student input throughout the project cycle — from identifying small ways to help the community organization each week, to scheduling a field trip.

We must remember, we are only a sunset, a heartbeat, or a coin toss away from being ‘the others.’

Closing thoughts

Brake says: “We must remember, we are only a sunset, a heartbeat, or a coin toss away from being ‘the others.’ Giving and walking away from an issue isn’t enough. As educators, let’s strive to create a generation of students who can recognize and resonate with populations different than their own.”

This article is part of the TED-Ed Innovation Project series, which highlights 25+ TED-Ed Innovation Projects designed by educators, for educators, with the support and guidance of the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program. You are welcome to share, duplicate and modify projects under this Creative Commons license to meet the needs of students and teachers. Art credit: Shutterstock.

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