April kicks off the global month of service. If you are responsible for guiding and organizing service learning projects for your 4-H Club (or any other organization), follow this five step process to ensure a successful, enriching experience for all involved:
Who (or what) needs help in your local community? Ask for youth input for a specific area, location, or population.
Define learning objectives for the project. These can be general or specific, but the service project should be guided by an educational goal.
To engage youth in a true service learning experience, ask reflection questions during the actual service project.
4. Analyze and Generalize.
Immediately following the experience, ask questions to learn how youth felt while they were engaged in the service project, such as: “What was the most difficult task you did today?”
To generalize is to understand the “so what.” Ask questions like: “What did you learn about yourself while completing this project?”
Ideally, service learning is a continuous process. Whether giving an illustrated talk on increased awareness of animal abuse or volunteering at a local hospital on their own time, service learning hopes to foster “self-worth, citizenship, critical thinking skills, [and ] responsibility” in youth (Mashburn, Harder, & Pracht, 2011).
For more information on how to can make community service more enriching and meaningful for youth and adults:
Mashburn, D., Harder, A., & Pracht, D. (2011). Learning by doing: Utilizing service-learning projects (AEC392). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved August 23, 2012 from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc073#FIGURE%201