We can start now. We don’t need permission. There are no obstacles. We have everything we need:
- A unified service learning curriculum
- Schools nationwide
- Non-profits in every community
- Project originators
- Online communication
Service learning is an established methodology for coordinating traditional academics with genuine, real life, current time, community needs. Bringing genuine community needs to the classroom for problem solving is not new. Problem solving in this context inspires students to engage in their learning environment. Service learning is incorporated into college curriculum for education majors nationwide. Teachers do not need permission to use service learning. It is a simple, well-founded, available teaching tool.
Our youth are desirous of the relevance and real-life interaction that service learning brings to traditional academics. We have come to discover that without genuine student engagement, grades drop, assessment reveals lack of knowledge, high school dropout rates increase, and even those students doing well may not be inspired to go to college – unsure of where they fit in the larger life context; unsure because we have excluded them from real world involvement during their formative years. Although they tell us what they need, we have yet to listen and create a solution with them.
Our community based non-profits have always been desirous of support from community members, and they actively invest in educating our youth, coming to our schools to describe the work of their organizations. Community non-profits are immediate in response to the opportunity to engage in service learning projects with our youth, moving beyond initial introductions to their organizations to define specific needs, provide statistics, and confirm the real life value of students’ contributions. Our non-profits hope for continuing, cooperative working relationships with community members.
Communication systems allow us to coordinate with immediacy – beyond the classroom, beyond our local communities, beyond our state borders. Our youth and teachers have the tools, the support, and the ability to reach out to their peers – to compare and assess needs, solutions, and progress. We live in a country where we don’t need permission to communicate and coordinate, to come together to problem solve among ourselves with resources at hand.
Solution models are up and running in communities across the world. We can link our youth in widespread solution making with project originators – project originators who can instruct, and involve our youth; to not only create in the present, but to sustain into the future; to not just talk about needed change, but to initiate and sustain it.
We have become accustomed to delay. We have become accustomed to inaction. We have become lax. It is time to embrace that which we can do: to identify needs and solve them with the tools we have; to coordinate without debate; to make things better. We owe this to our children. We owe them far better role modeling than we have been providing. We can start now. We don’t need permission.