As teachers, we provide service to our communities inside of our own classrooms by encouraging and promoting service to others with our students. We understand that connection with the tie to the standards we teach. In Arizona, one of the core discipline descriptors in the social studies standards is “People demonstrate civic engagement when they address public problems individually and collaboratively and when they maintain, strengthen and improve their communities and society.” 1
We also have an opportunity to provide service outside of our classrooms, and over the summer by volunteering in the community. We may participate in organizations in which groups or individuals volunteer either time or expertise. In Phoenix, for example, a few wonderful organizations are Feed My Starving Children, St. Mary’s Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul Society and Habitat for Humanity. When teachers and students volunteer, they gain civic knowledge through firsthand experiences and learn more about the community in which they live. They may even discover and meet the needs of people in their communities they did not know existed.
We may connect with our colleagues or students to find out where they would like to volunteer. With students, service-learning projects could be of any size and scope. The projects can also come from the students themselves by increasing student engagement, conducting brainstorming activities and discussing to identify where they see needs in their community.
The types of projects would vary depending on the grade level or overall goals of the projects, but the growth of responsible leadership, global citizenship and critical thinking will be the same. Service learning provides real world experiences and broadens the depth of their knowledge of their own communities, while developing lifelong habits of service to others. Studies show more than four million students from more than 20,000 schools participate in service learning, particularly at the high school level. 2
School or Community Garden
Another unique opportunity K-12 teachers and students can engage in without leaving their own campus is a community garden program. The Arizona Department of Health Services School Garden Program offers free certification for school and community gardens.3 This program supplements fruits and vegetables that can benefit the students in the school as well as the surrounding community. There are many existing resources available to help get a project like this off the ground as well as opportunities to acquire grant funding for a garden project.
These experiences provide concrete examples of how one person or group can make a difference. Volunteering and community projects are beneficial not only to the students academically, but also socially. If interest and participation is high, a service-learning project can be developed into an after-school club in which students regularly meet to discuss these types of issues and solutions, making their world a better place.
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1Arizona Department of Education, Arizona History and Social Science Standards in July 2022
2Youth.Gov, Service-Learning in July 2022
3Arizona Department of Health Services, Food Safety and Environmental Services in July 2022
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.