What’s News? Finding Service Learning Ideas in the Newspaper

By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning

Finding Service Learning Ideas in the NewspaperEvery time I pick up a newspaper, I see a story that makes me think, Wow, if students knew about that!

Yes, summer is time off from the classroom. We all need a break, however, most educators are still thinking ahead (at least occasionally!) to when the school bell rings again; a favorite book to teach, an essential concept to know, and a more effective approach to engaging students.

During this “down” time, it’s almost like our antennas are still up, seeking ideas and resources that could interest students in a topic. The word interest has collateral because interest, once stimulated, can grow into curiosity. Once harnessed, curiosity can explode into questioning—which can lead to moving beyond ideas into action.

So, back to the newspapers. These underused print pieces can be energizing to students. Often when consulting at a school, I bring a stack of recent newspapers and distribute the papers to small groups of students. “Look through the paper,” I say, “at headlines, articles, even ads. What do you notice that sparks your interest in an issue or cause that you care about?”

What I find fascinating is that many students are rarely asked, “What do you care about?” so they may not know. However, five minutes with a newspaper reading about endangered turtles, girls not being able to attend school in a distant country, a drought that threatens agriculture, or supermarkets in France selling unattractive fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste, and all I can say is WOW. Students want to talk about issues. They raise questions. They want to know more.

In my book The Complete Guide to Service Learning, I have developed chapters on thirteen societal issues based on what kids of all ages care about. A newspaper story can open the chapter on an issue and trigger curricular ideas, preparation experiences, and scenarios that articulate concepts so that teachers can use the idea to support students in developing purposeful service learning experiences.

What’s more, reading newspapers is academic! And they are current. Check out these ideas for summertime ways to explore what’s news:

Gathering Information About a Community Need

Bonus! Download the free, printable worksheet from The Complete Guide to Service Learning, Gathering Information About a Community Need

  • Begin saving articles that connect to your academics or might build student interest and curiosity. Consider using the thirteen themes of service as a way to catalog stories in folders. You can download the articles you find online into folders on your computer. With either approach, students can highlight what is most significant and note what is left unexplained, leading to further investigation.
  • Many journalists include an email address in their byline. Students can write to them with questions about how research was conducted. In the same newspaper, often the same writer covers a topic over time. Keep track of your favorites. Send an email and see what happens!
  • Invite a newspaper journalist to be interviewed by your class in person or online. This approach has been used by teachers and faculty from primary grades through university level students.
  • For very young students, use newspapers designed for elementary children. However by grade four, many teachers say students can read the regular news.
  • Some newspapers have excellent graphs, photographs, and other visuals that can assist in connecting math and analysis to various topics.
  • Opinions? Newspapers have them. This section can help students learn the difference between fact and opinion.
  • For artists, use editorial cartoons as academic content.

Thoughts and ideas? Your response is appreciated and can be emailed to cathy@cbkassociates.com.

Happy Summer!

Cathryn Berger Kaye, FSP AuthorCathryn Berger Kaye is the author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning and coauthor with Phillipe Cousteau of Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands and Make a Splash! A Kid’s Guide to Protecting Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands. For more about Cathryn Berger Kaye and her global offering of workshops and presentations at conferences and schools or her Summer Service Learning Institutes, visit www.cbkassociates.com or email cathy@cbkassociates.com.

Free Spirit books by Cathryn Berger Kaye:

The Complete Guide to Service Learning Going Blue from FSP MakeaSplash from FSP

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One Response to What’s News? Finding Service Learning Ideas in the Newspaper

  1. Pingback: What’s News? Finding Service Learning Ideas in the Newspaper | LC Service Corps at Lewis-Clark State College

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