The students will discuss problems that they know of in their schools, communities and around the world and then narrow down these issues, focusing on the one that is most important to them. From there, students will then research and discuss the chosen issue, finding a way that they believe they can make a difference. Students will then choose a way to best impact the issue such as raising money, making posters about the issue or collecting items. The process should be totally student-driven and teacher-guided.
Students will discuss problems that are important to them.
Students will choose an issue that they want to have an impact on.
Students will research the issue and ways to make a difference.
Students will perform an action that benefits the issue.
Computers with internet connection for research
Typical classroom supplies such as markers, scissors and paper
Talk to the students about service learning and how they will be embarking on a great adventure to make a difference in the world by choosing an issue important to them and finding a way to make a difference.
Have the kids make a list of ALL of the problems in the world. These can be local or global problems such as bullying, divorces, trees being cut down, world hunger, etc.
In small groups, have students discuss the problems and make a short list of the ones that are important to them and that they feel they could impact the most.
As a class, discuss and narrow down this smaller list, perhaps then coming to a vote. If you have a large class, you could split them into groups and tackle a couple of problems, or you could save one problem for another semester.
Once the problem has been solved, lead the children through small or whole group discussions about how best they can make a difference with this problem. If the children worry about world hunger, probably raising money is best. If the children worry about the environment, picking up trash or helping with recycling is an option. If the children worry about animals, volunteering at the local shelter or making posters about the animals to hang around town is an option. The hardest part is helping the children to realize that they want to make a big impact without spending a lot of money. Kids sometimes have great ideas about having a lemonade stand or something similar, but remind them that those items also need to be paid for. There is so much you can do without spending a whole lot of money!
If the students decide to raise money, make sure that they thoroughly investigate the organization so that they can tell others about it.
Guide the students through every step of the way, but ensure that the kids do the work. If a permission slip needs to be written, let them write it. If someone at City Council needs to be contacted, have them call, etc.
When the project is completed, celebrate with the children and make sure to do a thorough job of reflecting on the process and thanking those who were involved.
A written reflection on the process and/or what the students learned will easily assess the students’ learning.
Extensions and Adaptations
Related Links and Resources
The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action by Cathryn Berger Kaye
The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis
4th Grade Teacher
Shades Cahaba Elementary School, Homewood, Alabama