This is an outstanding book! Ms. Sandy McKane has created a local, state, national and international blueprint on why and how to establish “A National K – 12 Service Initiative.” After more than a decade of intensive research and development, she has demonstrated, by successful service examples and expert information, the true service essence for: “Of the People, By the People, For the People.”
I have read this powerful and enlightening book several times, and each reading has given me greater insight on the myriad needs for implementing the action steps clearly presented in this service initiative primer. Without question, I recommend strongly this pragmatic guide – researched and written with the highest academic quality – for adoption in the education curricula/curriculum of all/each public and private college/university in the United States…as well as similar global educational training for service initiatives.
Robert S. Morrissey, Ed.D. Dean Emeritus of Graduate Studies And Research State University of New York at Oneonta Oneonta, NY 13820-1437
This global service area poses the greatest level of complexity and the greatest level of impact as it holds the potential to draw us together globally. Consider the long term implications of our youth working and growing together with guidance from outstanding social entrepreneurs; growing into a generation of adults with a track record of networking productively and peacefully to accomplish and sustain much needed solutions.
Fourth graders had a global studies component and the topic was teacher selected for student leadership. We happened to have a community member with strong ties to an area of India and project work that led to our join with our schools. Students learned about our sister city and created a fundraising celebration.
Although there is not yet a model similar to other grades, we will work together to create this. Elements for inclusion:
Identify a sister city in a developing area of the world.
Identify a trustworthy advocate in the sister city.
Create dialogue with sister city residents to determine their priority problem solving area.
Consider the following models as resource to find possible solutions and connections
Once a sister city connection has been identified, our third graders can work toward building relationships with their third grade global peers. They will come to know the differences in home, work, education, culture and community in the context of shared humanity. They can communicate about changes they want to make and help one another find solutions. They can begin at a young age to connect, grow together as peaceful, educated global citizens.
Beyond Fourth Grade
The social entrepreneurs for global service work often dedicate their entire lives to their chosen work. Sometimes they come from other countries and settle in a location of need, developing a non-profit and redirecting their financial resources toward this change of life direction. Sometimes education offers opportunity for a student to return to their home community to create change. In all cases, these social entrepreneurs are an inspiration for us all.
We have learned that finding these trustworthy partners who live, work, and know the communities that can become our sister cities are essential for navigating local customs and processes. Raising funds is often the best way to bridge the distance between us.
As we become educated through projects below which address needs often unfamiliar to our lives we can become partners in these transformations, networking connections to solutions that promote the bonds of peace and prosperity.
Environment is the most complex topic, embracing a wide variety of explorations in the search for best sustainable solutions. Building a base for educating and sharing creates increased opportunity for corrective action and the establishment of better, if not best practices.
Global connection to peers increases the potential rate of change and our ability to asses our progress. With social entrepreneurs and scientists at the helm, there is a direct channel to communicate with our youth through school wide assemblies. Information thus disseminated reaches the educational center of our communities and engages with the energy of our youth to take action and create change.
Recycling seems the most manageable component from this topic area for creating a signature grade level topic.
We don’t have a sample project for sixth grade students yet, but would love one if you’ve worked it out. Discussion with the community waste management director and school maintenance staff would be the starting point to assess current practices for comparison with models from other communities.
With a kindergarten through 6th grade foundation in service topics, successive generations will be experientially educated to determine their personal interest and possible service contributions as they grow into more independent adulthood. Their view of topics below will become an educated one. They will have networking possibilities in place with their peers nationwide and globally. They will be part of a national graduating class that worked together K – 6 at each topic level and continued to communicate through grades 7 – 12, zeroing in on their personal interest areas and building with their like-minded peers. The world becomes, quite naturally, a better place. We will grow guardians of humanitarian and environmental needs.
Beyond Sixth Grade
Our starting point for a national checklist of projects grew quite simply from an individual collecting projects into a spreadsheet that was gradually organized by topic as it grew. It was further organized on this website with videos and links to organizations. The intention is toward a flexible model that receives outstanding projects for dissemination, and tweaking details as well as major shifts become apparent. It is truly intended to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The models below, as the other topics, are representative examples and possibilities for consideration and connection with others in this needful area of challenge.
The cooperating non-profit educating partner for this project is the Community Center for Independence. Unless we have personal experience with disability through a family member or friend, we may not know that such an organization is at work in our communities.
One wheelchair for the project spreads awareness in the school community over a significant period of time, as all third graders experience the solo journey, one by one, day after day.
This innovative disability awareness program has students spend one day in a wheelchair and participate in an interdisciplinary learning experience designed to promote understanding of accommodation, accessibility, and independence.
Reflection is one of the four components of service learning. More typically, reflection happens after engagement, however in this model it happens prior to a day spent in a wheelchair.
Third graders will have seen this project occurring in the school hallways and cafeteria in previous years. The beginning excitement for their turn to engage becomes part of their reflection which later contrasts with feelings of limiting access and freedom – exclusion – and the importance of community.
A journal of service learning reflections will begin in kindergarten and progress each year to include new service work each year. Students will include project outcomes – their real world contributions during these early years of their lives. When they are too young to write for themselves, older students can join them to write for them, which strengthens relationships and school community.
One of the imperatives in the work with teachers was to ease their preparation time – to give them a model that could be incorporated without a lot of research and development. Our choice of cooperating non-profit partner was the Violence Intervention Safe House. Homeless shelters are an easy switch in the sample model we created for immediate use. The opportunity to work on a creative project with elementary school children for our local Violence Intervention Program Safe House staff turned out to be especially valuable as they must document education contact hours to receive state funding for their program.
Second graders created gift bags for children and teens in the Violence Intervention Program Safe House. Middle school students made the bags and joined with second graders to help complete the gift bags.
One of the interesting aspects of working with young children and their parents is a striking willingness – an eagerness – to work together. When this project was shared with parents along with a list of needed supplies, parents and children brought supplies to the classroom. One might well ask, but what if our community does not have families with these resources. As we join our children nationwide at each grade level those areas that do not have needed supplies can identify themselves and communities with more resources will offer to help. Our children and their parents will easily see this logic that often seems illusive in our adult relationships. There will be a channel of communication seen through the lens of values and how we want to raise our children. With young children at the helm of this work it is hard for any adult to resist supporting them in this work. Once this work is in full swing there is no doubt that local and national companies will join the effort to show themselves on this page with us.
Beyond Second Grade
Service projects under the topic shelter address items that are typically found in a home, things like clothing and beds, or if living on the street, access to food, storage, and personal hygiene. The details we may take for granted have become the substance of projects that help others in need in ways we may not have considered.
As a community member or older student we will self-educate at first. We may look at the list below which covers needs others found in their community and know it is also a need in our community. We may instead wonder if there is a homeless shelter in our community.
Service learning will be educating our youth that conversation with the staff of our non-profits is essential to building projects of value and establishing relationships. Our community based organizations are often desperate for our involvement. Their time is so needed for the populations they serve and yet they need to take time to create fund raisers to support their work and our awareness that they exist. This service initiative gives them ongoing engagement and connection to community members for support.
As our children work in year long service areas with staff of these organizations they will come to know the staff and the needs in this area in their community. By second grade, our youth will already have developed an educated vision of their community and how things work – who to contact, what is needed, considerations to keep in mind. The idea that we turn to these young children for information, that we turn to them as leaders in this area for the community, will begin to make sense from many vantage points. When we have an interest or idea, they become the communicators with the shelter because they have an ongoing monthly dialogue with shelter staff. Whenever we engage or disengage in project work, they need this information to update the community checklist under shelter.
First grade teachers wanted a service project that would tie health and the chidren’s visit to the hospital together. When asked, our local hospital staff identified a need for “hospital dolls” which help children cope with the hospital experience. A local church group had made them for the emergency room but they had stopped making them. Emergency room nurses found them to be of great value.
When a service area becomes a year long communication with the hospital the relationship becomes significant. Hospital staff know they can let the students know when their supplies are running low. Children understand their role and value in the community. If we embed and sustain a topic area at each grade level, everyone in the community comes to know where information is available. In this case, the hospital staff know that first graders are the conduit to the community checklist. As staff generate ideas that would be helpful in the hospital setting, they can let the class know and the students can update the community checklist with this request. Community members no longer wonder what they can do, but rather can search by topic to see what they might be able to contribute based on personal interest and skill.
Hospital dolls help young children throughout their hospital experience in many ways. This first grade service learning project drew upon a model from Kiwanis of Burnside, Australia and information gathered from the websites of hospitals using these dolls in the US.
The above first grade project model is ready-to-go for first grade teachers to incorporate. Conversation with your local hospital will either confirm this need or suggest another. As with all sample projects a different version could be designed by any first grade teacher. The unifying aspect would be most strong as a project for the local hospital, however any caring outreach project could be used since first grade will be the collection point for community projects undertaken in this topic area. All community projects that fall under the topic of Caring Outreach would be shared with first graders who update this community checklist topic.
Beyond First Grade
In the models below the range of possibilities is quite wide, touching upon many needs and solutions. Some of the models are simple; others are complex. Some are urban; others are not, although perhaps worthy of consideration in our communities. The mix is educational for all of us, and most importantly, for our youth as they learn about their world.
When our children first enter school they are ready to move from make believe to the real world. It’s one of the major steps forward in their lives. Entering kindergarten is a first impression of education and how it makes sense in their lives. They are ready to do good things, important things and they expect this. We need to build on their excitement and give them opportunity to play a real role in the adult world. Kindergarten teachers identified animals as the topic area for this age group and created Caring for Animals. If we began with just this one service component, we would have the first foundational building block for a nationally coordinated service curriculum.
Kindergarten teachers identified animals as the starting point for a community leadership role.
Kindergarteners have a signature project above in Caring for Animals. Created by teachers and our local SPCA it incorporates service learning and curricular components. A dialogue can be created among kindergarteners nationwide using this model. One important point to remember is that the signature service project is not a teaching unit, rather a year-long service engagement with the non-profit partner organization. It is a constant part of the kindergarten classroom experience.
The project possibilities below were created by people who were moved to create solutions for more needs in their community or in their individual lives. As older students or adult community members choose and engage in project replication or development, it is important to remember that Kindergarten is the class representing animals in our service work. Any additional projects need to be shared with the kindergarteners. This is how a community checklist develops. This is how we begin to coordinate at the community and also the national level. This is how we validate the role our youth play in service work topics K – 6th grade. This is how we never forget that this is what they do. This is how they learn about their world and their place in it.
So when you choose one of these projects, let the kindergarten class in your community know and give them updates. If your local school is not involved in this work, ask them why not! This is another way to get ourselves on the same page.
“Therapy animals can provide physical, psychological, and emotional benefits to those they interact with, typically in facility settings such as healthcare, assisted living, and schools. While most frequently dogs, therapy animals can include other domesticated species such as cats, equines, and rabbits, to name a few. These pets are evaluated on their ability to safely interact with a wide range of populations, and their handlers are trained in best practices to ensure effective interactions that support animal welfare. Therapy animal handlers may volunteer their time to visit with their animals in the community, or they may be practitioners who utilize the power of the human-animal bond in professional settings.” Pet Partners
What would happen if every school district adopted an endangered species? What if school districts combined efforts where necessary and coordinated their efforts with organizations researching these needs to understand how to work together until health was re-established and attention could be turned to another species?
Addressing the need for food in our community is often the most obvious need presented to us by food drives and holiday meals. We often forget the other obvious: food is a daily need and our food banks need constant support to help those struggling with food insecurity. Our children can become aware of daily attention to this need in the cafeteria.
A district wide K-12 service learning project creates an ongoing, self-sustaining system to address food insecurity in local communities.
Similar to other topics, this year long leadership role for fifth grade grows beyond the single year. Service becomes a constant in the curriculum, similar to other subjects. Year after year successive classes of fifth graders build on the work of the previous years. Data is compounded and relationships are solidified. Improvements are easily implemented and food bank staff find consistent community support to create optimum outcomes.
Teachers join with their peers nationwide to witness the empowerment of students in creating change. Joining nationally in these service topics we build national graduating classes of students that have established productive working relationships and changed their communities in ways we were unable to imagine. And they will tell us it was easy!
Beyond Fifth Grade
For many of us, shining the light on this particular community need may reveal a problem that we didn’t see in its entirety. Becoming educated about a problem can at first seem daunting. The silver lining is that others have already been problem solving. They are the social entrepreneurs who having been among us, doing this work, and they are anxious for us to join them. They are there to help us realize the mega solution.
I grew up with very little service involvement as a youth. I was taught to be kind and give when opportunity presented itself, but that was pretty much it. When my second child, Charlotte, arrived later in life, I wanted her to have opportunity to “give back” and come to understand the larger community family of which she was a part; that having all of her needs met was not the case for everyone.
When Charlotte was five, we took her to visit our local hygiene cabinet, explaining that people who needed these items could get them there. She loved meeting the staff and on the way home we talked about why people might need to go there and what else we could do to help. She was eager to learn and engage with adults in the community. She wanted to do more. Part of her weekly allowance became earmarked for hygiene items, and then we taught her matching funds – matching the amount she contributed to community needs each month.
As adults in the community came to know of her involvement they offered to give. Since she was giving regularly, she naturally expected they would do the same – maybe even matching funds to her contribution. Staff of other community based organizations asked to be included in her project, Charlotte’s Circle. The purity of the young child seemed irresistible to adults and she met their interest with her desire to take on more. Between the ages of five and seventeen, she raised and managed over $70,000 for needs in her community.
As I watched Charlotte grow with the project in her life, the idea of replication – what would happen if more children and families were doing this – became a recurring thought. One day, the director of our United Way commented to me that she “wished we could do something about the food problem in our community.” This was a turning point for me. Replicating projects for a variety of community needs became important. My professional interests turned to service learning. I began to create a database of service projects organized by topic.
The mother in me had shifted from Charlotte to all of our children – from my community to all communities. I think there is a certain idealism that grabs hold of us when we raise young children; what the world could be seems a point of conscience.
The final piece that kicked in was the imperative to start young – to create a foundation of service in the education of our children. So I worked with elementary grade teachers to create a sequence that could start in kindergarten and build up through each grade – a leadership role for each grade, tied to the topic areas that had formed in the database.
In a world that adults have not been able to manage, perhaps creating such a foundation for the next generation can head us toward sustainable solutions to the challenges we face.