A national model for service learning must be based on easily replicated projects with clear and valuable outcomes. Simple, core projects at specific grade levels create a foundation on which more-complex projects can develop.
The early-grade service learning projects for the K–12 model shared in previous chapters were created with teachers who were not initially familiar with service learning as an educational structure. However, with some explanation of service learning as a way to tie service to curriculum, they readily engaged. The practical, educational relevance of the service learning projects became clear to students, teachers, parents, community members, and elected officials as community-based organizations substantiated outcomes that confirmed the significance of contributions.
Simple models with clear explanations and support materials help teachers and students move forward into projects with greater ease and communication. Sample model formats are at www.k12serviceinitiative.com.
A dear friend, whose professional work involved event planning, once remarked that recurring events were “cookbook”—they had become as easy as a recipe. Once these grade-level projects are up and running, less energy is required to maintain them because habit takes over. As years of project work progress, former students and teachers have paved leadership roles, which makes it easier to add, develop, and strengthen contributions and leadership roles in specific topic areas—one step at a time—in our own schools and communities, at our own rate, with the support of others nationwide doing the same.
Simple models that invite engagement are essential for a K–12 national model; they are essential for the experiential learning and outcomes our children are so eager to find in their schools, in their relationships with teachers and communities, and in the real world.