I am teaching a community service class at our homeschool co-op. My group is small, consisting of five kids ranging in age from 10-13 years old. Community service is a subject dear to my heart and I am thrilled that these kids are eager and willing to learn more about ways they can help others.
I prefer to see myself as more of a facilitator in this environment as opposed to a teacher. The first day we met I handed out a sheet of paper with different categories of community service and sample projects that would fall under each. For example, I listed Elderly (Meals on Wheels, visit a nursing home, play games at the senior center), Animals (volunteer at the Wildlife Refuge, make catnip socks for shelter animals), etc. I asked the kids to rank the categories they found most appealing to serve as a guide for planning activities. After all, if all of them ranked Animals as their top choice, I wanted to be sure I found a few intriguing opportunities in that category to satisfy what interested them most. Thankfully, the kids were all over the board when it came time to filling these out so it looks as though we will be able to dabble a little bit in each area, something I think is hugely important.
Because, what I have realized while working the last couple of weeks with these kids, as well as with my Girl Scout troop, is they have a hard time thinking "outside the box" when it comes to community service. When soliciting ideas, I can't count how many times "bring food to the food shelf" came up or "go to Feed My Starving Children." These are great service projects but the problem is, most of these kids have done these. Time and time again. And my purpose for offering this class, or service time, as I like to view it, is to help these kids realize that there are so many groups and organizations that want and desperately need our help. Most of them aren't asking us to raise money for them or bring in donations -- several just want our time and energy to help make a difference. And, oftentimes, this is all kids have to offer. I want them to know, to experience, that wonderful feeling of giving of themselves.
We've had a couple of fun projects already and I will post these. Maybe you will find some small inspiration in them, as well.