This week, the 23rd Annual National Service-Learning Conference: Our World, Our Future is taking place in Minneapolis. We are excited to be there for many reasons. Service learning experiences can tie kids to their communities in new and meaningful ways and build positive character traits. As an instructional method, these activities give students choices, can be relevant to their own experiences or communities, and engage them on several levels. Sometimes these projects can ignite an interest or passion in a student’s life, leading him or her in a new and exciting direction.
Service learning can empower young people, and the book Going Blue is packed with compelling examples. While preparing the book for publication, many of the employees at Free Spirit discovered the topic touched them very personally. Plastic water bottles practically disappeared from the office, and people started to monitor their use of water differently. If helping to bring forth a book on service learning and the environment got us so excited, we realized that it could inspire many teachers and students as well.
With Earth Day coming up this month, it is worth noting that over 70 percent* of the Earth’s surface is watery-blue, not green. Perhaps you will consider taking on a service learning project based on water—or the plants and animals that live near or in it—in your classroom. Ask the kids in your classes what they know about water usage in your area. Have there been recent news articles about water levels or changes in the fish population in area lakes? Are students concerned about the floating islands of plastics in the oceans, or do they wonder how ocean currents affect the weather?
The natural world can bring great opportunities for service learning experiences. We encourage all teachers to help their students choose a topic and work through the steps that are the core of every service learning experience—investigation, preparation, action, reflection, and demonstration.
Is your class participating in any service learning activities tied to Earth Day? What passions have you seen ignited in students while working on these projects? How do you help students apply this energy to other projects and topics?
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* “Ocean” from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye & Philippe Cousteau, with EarthEcho International
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
The Compete Guide to Service Learning by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.
What a cool story, Linda. Did your students get a reply from the parks board?
Last fall our 6th gr students studied zebra mussels, and took part in a mussel count at boat launches on a nearby canal. The kids wrote a report and sent it to the county parks board, showing that more than half the boats coming in had mussels attached. They still talk about it, and want to count stink bugs next year, and learn if they are a hazard (besides to the nose!)