By Matt Robinson
MAKE A DIFFERENCE! That is a bold challenge. It is just the challenge that the eighth grade students at Pemetic Elementary gave to the attendees at last week’s 11th annual KIDS Consortium Student Summit. Pemetic students planned the whole two-day event, including selecting the Make a Difference theme, scheduling the speakers, presentations, and activities. Check out their blog! They planned the whole event—marvelously, by the way—essentially, because KIDS Consortium asked them to…
I loved going to the Student Summit. Listening to students discuss their service-learning projects always shines a bright light on aspects of the service-learning process that are often overlooked. Watching students describe their role in the process reminds me why service-learning is such a valuable strategy for our students and communities. As I settled in to watch the presentations wondered what the kids were going to say about how they learned to MAKE A DIFFERENCE. It didn’t take long.
“One thing I really want to mention,” said a high school student as he advanced to the last slide of his group’s PowerPoint, the screen filled with a half dozen snapshots of teens and adults on a rainy day carrying buckets, pushing wheelbarrows and mugging in front of piles of dirt, “is that while doing this project, I noticed that when you ask people to help you, they will, and they really like it. Sharon, one of our master gardeners, put as much time into this as any of us. She is awesome. She thanked us for calling her.”
There it is! Talk about how to make a difference! Asking others for help—believing that people can and will help and knowing how to ask—is valuable. The student concisely pointed out the mutual benefit of the partnerships his group established by asking for help. He reminded me that asking others to contribute meaningfully to advance a goal, meet a need, or impact a problem is not a burden but a gift.
In previous posts about service-learning I have discussed and given examples of the link to the curriculum and the meaning of student ownership. But another of the principles of the KIDS model is that students collaborate with community partners to impact a problem or meet a need. Collaboration is fundamental to participatory democracy and to the process of developing citizens who are experienced and comfortable working with individuals of all ages to solve problems. Service-learning reinforces the notion that if you want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE, ask others for help.
I’d like to describe how each group at the Student Summit collaborated with community partners, but space here is limited. Use this link to read descriptions of some of the service-learning projects presented last week. Keep thinking spring and giving others opportunities to help.