“Tell me, I forget… Teach me, I remember…Involve me, I learn”
The beauty of a service learning curriculum is that it is easy to incorporate. The topics that created the suggested framework came from teachers – teachers who were not service learning advocates – teachers who asked for clarification of the service learning structure and then moved forward with ease to create service learning projects – elementary grade teachers who simply selected topic areas based on age appropriateness and academic components. The framework germinated from the grass roots level of the people:
- Kindergarten—Animal Shelters
- 1st Grade—Hospitals
- 2nd Grade—Shelters
- 3rd Grade—Sister Cities
- 4th Grade—Disabilities
- 5th Grade—Food Banks
- 6th Grade—Recycling
- 7th-12th Grades: Expansion based on the community projects checklist
Each topic area provides material through which academics are focused and projected into real world contexts. The projects are integrated with academic subject areas. If signature projects are first identified for each elementary grade, other grades, and community members can then contribute to each topic area. No one is excluded, community coordination is clear, resources are easily identified. Our youth would be introduced to all project work in their topic areas as they progress through leadership roles; as a rite of passage into the adult world.
The initiative requires national coordination. Using technology, our youth, teachers, and community based organizations would network to create national statistics that reflect our progress. The initiative does not require large scale funding to get beginning level projects off the ground but rather encourages earning our way toward funding needed for more advanced projects.
We could spend time arguing about which topic belongs in each grade, but if we could agree on this single puzzle piece – if we could model cooperation for our youth – we could get to work and discover outcomes beyond anything we have imagined thus far.
Our youth need the evidence of relevance – how education becomes a tool for problem solving; they need to experience real world change that requires critical thinking and adaptation. Real world connections add purpose and relevance to academic subjects and can ignite the fuse of inspiration – the desire – for education. Service learning projects demonstrate the value of education as an integral life component – not a time bound period in one’s youth that was required.