Nancy Younce submitted this story of one of Julian Elementary School’s service projects.

The students at Julian Elementary School, a have been focusing on showcasing their Service Learning Projects each year on Global Youth Service Day.  This has made the projects more meaningful to them, with guidance and instruction for high quality service learning.

Established in 1988, Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world, and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth.  GYSD is celebrated each year in over 100 countries.

Focusing on Service Learning, my 2nd and 3rd grade combination class has formed a partnership with a 4th and 5th grade combination class to learn about age-appropriate leadership skills.  Working with a student teacher, we came up with an idea to form a partnership with our local Historical Society and Museum.

Essential in this partnership is the collaboration between the students and the community, and sharing common goals relative to community needs.  Furthermore, observing the students sharing ideas and showing mutual respect to their peers, amidst diversity of the group, has been rewarding.

The students have begun with the “investigation” aspect of their plan.  This has led to the discovery of a community problem that needs to be addressed and involves research and mapping activities.  The goal is to embark on a Global Youth Service Day Project that will be completed by Earth Day on April 22, 2011. 

Through this project, the students will learn about the history of our town, empower other children in our school to understand the historical significance of our community, and to create a pamphlet for the children and families of the school, the community members, and visitors of Julian.  Included in the plan is to refurbish and decorate the Historical Society bulletin board on the side of the town hall.

The “planning and preparation” of the project involves the teachers, students, and community members to outline the learning and service activities to make the project successful.  Youth voice is a very important component in this process to insure ownership for the students.

The “action” is the heart of the project and helps to engage students in a meaningful way.  As they began implementation of the project, they will, hopefully, gain experiences to help them develop skills, attitudes and knowledge that will ultimately benefit the entire community. 

Part of this action involves weekly class meetings, researching books and internet on the history of Julian, creating an informational pamphlet for distribution to town visitors, inviting guest speakers to the school, and providing guided walking field trips into town to the Julian Museum, the Julian Cemetery, the Town Hall and the Julian Historical Society. 

In addition, the students will be working together to create a time line, photographs and informational display on the Julian Historical Society’s bulletin board for the enjoyment of any local resident or visitor to Julian.  As their progress is monitored, we will discover if our specific goals were met.

When the project is completed, it will be critical for the students to “reflect” on their accomplishments.  It is essential for them to think about what they learned through the process of their project and to relate what it means to them through discussions, illustrations or writings.  Evaluating their experiences should give more meaning to their efforts, a greater connection to their community, and an excellent way for them to demonstrate understanding. 

Finally, the students can “celebrate” their accomplishments by sharing their knowledge through photographs and newspaper articles, and thinking about how this will affect the community in the future.   Assessment of the project through additional discussions and reflections of what worked and what could have been done differently will provide feedback and improve instruction, to further measure their learning and development.