Encouraging students to make positive impacts in their community can be difficult. However, incorporating community based projects into the curriculum can help teachers encourage students to take action in ways that will benefit the community as a whole.
Students Impacting Communities
Making a lasting impact in the life of a student is a very rewarding experience. Impacting that student in a way that motivates them to take their newfound knowledge and apply it towards making helpful changes in their community is priceless. Here are five ways teachers can motivate and encourage their students to make positive impacts on their communities.
One: Bring the Community to the Classroom
One of the best ways to help influence your students to be involved in the community is to bring the community to the classroom. Set up a project in which students are to pick a community organization or club to research. Once they learn the basics of an organization, ask them to present their findings to the class and highlight ways students can get involved. At the end of the presentations, ask the students to collectively choose one organization to be involved with as a group. For instance, if your class chooses to help a local food pantry then set up a canned food drive. Instruct students to make lists of food items they love and encourage them to bring them in to class. Set up a donation box or bin for collection. Keep it fun by offering a reward for the student or group of students that bring in the most food. If possible, deliver the food to the food pantry together to create a sense of ownership and pride for a job well done.
Two: Incorporate Community into Course Work
There's a growing trend in implementing service projects into every day course work in order to encourage students to get involved in their community. Service learning as it is referred to is the latest movement in education that focuses on enhancing student knowledge through service projects that benefit local non-profit and community organizations. Teachers can develop a series of lessons that revolve around a group or individual project that combines learning and community service projects.
For example, science teacher Ramsey Musallaem developed a course in assistive technology that encouraged his students to reach beyond themselves and design new technology to help others in the community. Musallaem told his students how some children with physical and mental disabilities are unable to operate computers because the devices are too complicated for them. Musallaem encouraged his students to use design programs like MakeyMakey to find a solution to this need by creating assistive technology devices that would give these children a simpler way to operate electronic devices. In a two week time span, his students created and presented new innovative assistive devices to the children with special needs. The response was fantastic, as kids experienced for the first time the ability to operate a computer.
Three: Create Community Based Group Projects
If you're working with younger elementary students, think of a project that can be done at their level. For example, take your class to the park for an afternoon to play and enjoy time outside. Afterwards, explain to your students how town or city workers have to go around to each park and pick up trash to make sure the park stays clean and nice just for them. Explain how they can help their town by keeping the park clean themselves. Pass out trash bags and gloves if necessary and go around with your students picking up trash around the park. This can help younger children understand what goes into keeping their favorite play area clean while also showing them that they can take part and help.
Four: Encourage your School to Host a Community Fair
The more hype that is created around the idea of making a positive impact in the community, the more students will become excited to step out and get involved. Encouraging your school to host a community fair is one way to help keep the excitement growing and expand a student's knowledge of what serving the community is all about. If possible, have the fair during school hours so it's accessible to all students. Feature organizations, clubs, non-profits, and all sorts of community-based programs in the fair. Keep the event fun by offering give-a-ways and other incentives to students who sign up to learn more about an organization or even sign up to volunteer with them. Sometimes students just aren't aware of the needs around them. Highlighting those areas can help open their eyes to ways they can help and make a difference.
Five: Explore Project Citizen
Making a positive impact in the community is not just about volunteering. Making positive impacts in the community can take on the form of citizen action. For instance, examples of citizen action include civil rights marches, peace demonstrations, a 24 hour fast to shed light on families going hungry, writing letters to elected officials voicing concerns about community programs and laws, and more. Students may not be at a legal age to vote, but they can still take part and make a difference in regards to different political and non-political issues taking place in their own backyards.
You can launch these projects with the help of Project Citizen, a program designed for middle school, high school, and college students to shed light on ways young people can be responsible participants in local and state governments. The program provides curriculum to teachers, outlining additional ways to encourage students to be positive role models and action takers in their home towns. Funded by the Department of Education, this program is a great tool for introducing students to ways they can help their community by thinking outside the box.
No matter what method you choose to help promote your students' activity in their community, make sure you take action alongside them. Educate yourself on community involvement and then don't just facilitate, but step out and step up to the challenge with your students.