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Service Learning

NobleCause Grant Allows Environmental Nonprofit to Engage Thousands of Youth through Service

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NobleCause Grant Allows Environmental Nonprofit to Engage Thousands of Youth through Service

June 5th is World Environment Day, and there is no shortage of environmental initiatives that have been made (and met) worldwide. One organization, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), provides a number of programs targeted at preschool through 12th grade students (Generation Z), to help them understand the value of community outreach, and to get them interested in the nature and science departments. Recently, ELK received a grant from NobleCause which will allow them to increase their reach, provide stronger support for those already in their program, and more.

 

 

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5 Ways to use Service Learning to Run a Successful Food Drive

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5 Ways to use Service Learning to Run a Successful Food Drive

Service Learning Curriculum Ideas for Food Drive Projects that will Maximize Impact

By: NobleHour Special Contributors Dr. Kristin Joos and Shay Ernest

Food drives are intended to educate students about food inequity and encourage students to take action. But is this what is indeed happening in class rooms and campuses? When not properly planned, food drives can do just the opposite, producing unintended consequences that reinforce or exacerbate stereotypes students hold about people living in poverty. Today we are providing ways to use service learning to overcome common challenges of food drives and maximize your intended meaningful impact. 

THE BIG PICTURE

Let us take one step back. To avoid negative outcomes, we need to first understand when there is an imbalance of education and action, food drives can unintentionally be piloted in the wrong direction. A private high school in San Francisco used to take students to the poorer parts of town to volunteer at soup kitchens and food banks for a few hours at a time. Malcolm Singer, the school director of community service-learning, explains what can happen when there is action without proper education, “What we realized, when we were driving them back to school, was that (students) were saying the same things about hunger and poverty that they had been saying the day before. We realized we were reinforcing the same negative stereotypes.”[1] The same problem often occurs with food drives -- as there is typically little or no interaction between students and the community their donations are intended to help, and food drives may include little education about the root causes of hunger and poverty. The way to create a food drive that positively impacts both students and the community is simple – educate students about the issues of social justice and show them how to take action. Once a student becomes aware of the injustices in the world, they aspire to be a part of the improvement.

My motto in life is ‘If you think it, you can do it’ and if we all apply that thought we can end hunger the world over.
— Dionne Warwick

EDUCATE

Nearly fifty million Americans face food insecurity.[2] Education should be centered on the root causes of hunger and poverty with curriculum focusing on who, what, where, and why. Because food insecurity is such a multifaceted issue, it lends itself to easily being incorporated in different areas of study. Below is a list of curriculum ideas for starting discussion and research projects (please keep in mind many of the topics below are not exclusive to the subject they are listed under as there is much intersection between the issues:

  • General
    • Define hunger and food insecurity.
    • Investigate the impact of hunger and how many people it affects.
    • Explore relationship of poverty and unequal distribution of food.
    • Look at government response to national hunger.
  • Health
    • Research effects of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes.
    • Compare rates of obesity in countries around the world with rates of malnutrition/hunger.
    • Examine nutritional value versus cost of food.
    • Look at MyPlate and USDA to understand what makes a healthy diet.
    • Create a healthy menu for one week for a family of four. Price how much it costs to eat healthy.
  • Geography
    • Define and examine the characteristics of food deserts.
    • Identify the causes and consequences of food deserts.
    • How does the neighborhood influence the choices made about health.
    • Analyze the top five states with greatest food insecurity.
  • Economics
    • Research SNAP and the Farm Bill.
    • Create a formula to address the income needed to eliminate hunger; how much does it cost each week for a family of four to eat healthy? A single person?
    • Define the current poverty guidelines.
    • Create a budget for a set area (include housing, electricity, water, transportation, insurances, phone, internet); using the area’s minimum wage at forty hours a week as income, analyze how much is left over for food; discuss how unforeseen circumstances (sickness, school expenses, etc.) can affect food purchases.
    • Determine what a family of four at poverty level would receive in government assistance. Could they feed their family healthy meals for this amount? If so, for how long? What income is needed?
    • Have students track their own health budget for a week and compare it to various income levels and assistance programs.
  • Social Sciences
    • Study laws and policies impacting the rate of hunger, poverty, and lack of access to healthy food in America. Are new policies needed?
    • Compare current rates of hunger in the US to rates during the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Conduct comparative study for how others (various religions, cultures, ethnic groups, countries) approach the process of providing “charity” to the needy.
    • Comparative study on who is hungry (rural vs urban, ethnic groups, age, etc.)

ACTION

Now the fun part of service learning: taking action! Engage your students in a meaningful service project to enhance their learning and provide guided practice in social responsibility. Don’t just let the food drive end when a sufficient amount of cans are collected, connect the students to the community. Finding a food bank to work with will probably be the easiest part out of everything; there are food banks all across the nation. Feeding America is one of the largest food bank networks providing over 3.3 billion meals trough food pantries and meal programs. They have 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries serving more than 46 million people each year. Feeding America has a search on their website to help you find your local food bank. Conducting a food drive will require a little planning. Youth Service America provides an in-depth, mainly logistical guide to running a food drive, appropriate for the high school level. No Kid Hungry also has a guide to integrating service learning and eating healthy for classrooms. Please note that both of these materials can be adapted to fit students of different ages.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Canned food drives can be seen as placing a “Band-Aid” on the issues of hunger and food inequity. Service learning projects are the chance for a cure – an emerging generation of socially conscious students dedicated to empowering others, as well as themselves.

Are you ready to find a meaningful service learning project? Start your free NobleHour account today to find opportunities near you!

[1] http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-32-fall-2007/feature/beyond-canned-food-drive

[2] http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html

Photo: Dolly Duplantier

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Finding Fulfillment through Service-Learning Courses

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Finding Fulfillment through Service-Learning Courses

By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo

Around this time of year, high school graduates throw their graduation caps in the air, parents sob and wonder where the time has gone, and another generation begins their transition into adult life. For those students whose post high school plans involve higher education, the time to register for classes is quickly approaching. As students begin this new phase in their life and start thinking about their options for the first semester of college or university, service-learning should be a topic on their mind. Including service-learning courses in your college experience enhances your knowledge in a subject, benefits the community, and bridges the gap between a university lecture hall and the world waiting outside.  

Service-learning differs from plain volunteerism and community service. Unlike volunteerism, service-learning incorporates topics and concepts discussed in the classroom and applies them to real world problems. Service-learning teaches through experiential learning. Students are engaged by their teachers both in the course subject area and in the ways they are challenged to use this knowledge in the greater community. Nazareth College, a place of higher education renowned for its commitment to including service in the education process, defines experiential learning as:

“Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience in a real world context. Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values. Facilitated and guided practice, reflection and evaluation are all essential components of this transformative method of learning.”

Service-learning is a unique educational tool and experience because it stimulates critical thinking and problem solving while also asking students to consider the consequences of their knowledge and their involvement in the community.  

Students who opt to take service-learning courses as part of their university experience are more fulfilled and engaged in class.  Students involved in service-learning are happier and more excited about their classes because they are involved in their learning and in critical thinking. Rather than just listening to lectures, students are engaged with the course material, their professors, classmates, and the community. Students are also allowed to explore and act upon their values and beliefs by making an impact in the community. They develop critical thinking, problem solving, and research skills by using the knowledge they gain in the classroom to tackle real life issues. By working with others and solving complex social issues, students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, which cannot be taught through lectures and tests. By engaging students in a variety of settings, service-learning can build knowledge, character, and civic responsibility, which are useful both to the students enrolled in the course and the community they serve.  

Communities and organizations that partner with higher education institutions to develop service-learning curriculum benefit from the budding minds and dedication of young people.  Service-learning has a positive place in the community by dealing with unmet needs. According to Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education, the top issues addressed through university service programs are K-12 education, hunger, housing, and homelessness. Through service-learning, students interact with diverse groups of people and other cultures in their community.  By confronting these issues and developing service projects in their classes, students become more aware of social issues and causes. They consider the causes and symptoms of these issues and how their actions can alleviate different facets of a concern in the community. In service-learning courses, students are not just asked to consider new ideas in textbooks and notes but also the different viewpoints and positions of people in their community. This allows them to be more empathetic towards others and to consider the impact that their actions in their personal, scholarly, and professional lives have on different groups in the community. Both in their course work and their free time, students learn to ensure a better future for themselves and take initiative in satisfying unmet needs in their community.  

Service-learning courses can have a positive impact on a student’s future and career. Service-learning is a way of gaining professional experience, fulfilling university credit requirements, and strengthening one’s resume with service work. In many service-learning courses, students will be able to get out of the classroom and network with professionals in their field as an integral part of the coursework. Starting to build these networks while still in school can help students find internships and jobs in the future. The experience gained from service-learning classes provides a head start in the professional field and a valuable set of stories through which can help to demonstrate innovative thinking and dedication in applications or interviews. Apart from its impact on a person’s professional life, hopefully a service driven education will be a meaningful experience that compels students to continue giving back to the community in the future.  

Congratulations to this year’s high school graduates. If you’re a student interested in service-learning, be sure to consider talking to your university adviser about service-learning courses and opportunities at your school. There are many colleges and universities that are engaged in service learning, and more courses are added every day. Expand the impact of your service-learning by connecting with local organizations and other students interested in creating social change.

Image used under Creative Commons License via Tulane Public Relations

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How Service-Learning Engages Students

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How Service-Learning Engages Students

Service-learning is something I’m involved in on a daily basis. I find that sometimes students and parents are ill-informed on the distinction between volunteerism and service-learning, and this can lead to confusion. 

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