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School-wide service projects benefit students and the community alike. Research shows that service learning has a positive impact on students’ academic performance, interpersonal development and sense of civic responsibility. Participation in community service projects has been shown to engage students’ social, civic and academic skills. There are powerful lessons to be learned from serving the community in social responsibility, tolerance and perspective.If you are looking to provide this important learning experience in your school, you’ve got to pick a project that people will want to participate in and you’ve got to get everyone on board. Read on for some helpful tips.

Choosing a service project
When choosing your next school service project, try to focus on something that benefits the community while at the same time, engages students. Service projects should:

  • Be meaningful and real to the participants— students will be more likely to learn from the work they are doing if it is important or significant to them. Provide jotters and ask students to document their experiences, thoughts and feelings throughout the project.
  • Be cooperative rather than competitive to promote teamwork. Team T-shirts can be a great way to promote your project and unity alike.
  • Address complex problems in complex settings and offer problem-solving opportunities (i.e. an opportunity for critical thinking.) Encourage students to brainstorm solutions to the problem your service project addresses and allow them to share their ideas during class time.

Promoting your service project
Once you choose a worthwhile service project, you will need to get everyone on board and excited to participate. Encourage sign-up and get people talking by handing out fun Bend-A-Pens or cool tumblers that promote your project. Hang banners and posters throughout the school, include project details in overhead announcements and include a paragraph or two in your school newsletter. Don’t exclude support staff and parents from your promotional messages. Print table tents for school lounges and breakrooms and mail postcards to parents announcing your project and its specifics.

Share success
When your project comes to a close, don’t let the excitement die. Keep students posted on the project’s success. Let them know how they made a difference. Provide data—how many people were helped, what were some of the benefits seen by community, and what sort of an impact did this project have on the world around them. Knowing that the actions of each and every student made a difference may just make participation in the next project that much better.

Implement a school-wide service project that benefits students as much, if not more than the community and you’ve got a win-win situation.  In the words of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.”

“Service Learning Research and Resources.” Service Learning Resources and Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.

Service Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.

“What Are the Characteristics of Service-Learning?” National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.

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