Whew! This has been one of the busiest Aprils so far of my entire teaching career! There are a few reasons why I’ve been in quite a frenzy, but one of the largest projects to put the final touches on this month was the Service Learning Project.
If you’ve been following along, you know that my class of 5th and 6th graders have been working SO VERY HARD on their Service Learning project this year. We received funding from a local foundation to provide for our supplies and associated costs.
We had a few hiccups on the logistics, but with a positive attitude, we pulled it off!
Let me tell you how…
So, the 5 steps of Service Learning are:
4. Action (Direct and Indirect)
We have been working throughout the year on these steps.
Number 1, Investigation, happens through learning about the learning styles, strengths, and challenges of ourselves and our fellow learners. In our case, I had the students take a learning style survey, and they became more familiar with their preference for learning style. We took the results and graphed them visually to find our class’ most common and least common learning style.
For Preparation, the students brainstormed as a class to plan out their project for the benefit of the community. They designed it by using what they had learned during an informational session from our Service Partner, an environmental organization. They collectively decided to help this organization by spreading the word about the problems our local environment faces by creating Coloring Book Pages for our younger students.
Next, they agreed upon participating in a planting as their Direct Action.
We’ve been recording our learning within our Visual Journals, which are a way to bring together our complex thinking strategies, problem solving skills, literacy learning, and artistic techniques.
The Journals aren’t quite what I envisioned, but I’ll blame that on shortened class time and being a newbie to art journaling!
(ETA: To enhance the results of the students’ visual responses, I created a Service Learning Journal using the prompts I assign them while journaling. I placed those prompts directly on the pages of a printable packet. You can find it in my store, under Service Learning Reflection Journal. It’s customizable to your own Service Learning Project, with graphic organizers that guide students as they document their learning journey.)
Within the past couple months of class time, we were able to put together and complete our service activity for Indirect Action, number 4a.
Indirect Action allows for Service Learners to serve their community through working “behind the scenes” to meet the need defined in the earlier steps of learning.
For our project, we decided to create a coloring book to educate our fellow schoolmates about the defined need.
The students first came up with facts to raise awareness about the need they had identified.
Next, we paired off to design an illustration that both communicated the assigned fact, and worked aesthetically.
We had some thumbnail sketches, consulted with each other to create the final design, tested the final design by coloring it ourselves, and then made adjustments as necessary.
We even held a Cover Design Contest with the rest of the school to start to promote our coloring book!
Next, we assembled the books as a group, and physically handed them out to the entire school.
It was pretty powerful! The smiles on the students’ faces were all the thanks I needed for the massive amount of prep time I put into this step of the project!
I could see their excitement about educating others in their school through this method. Plus, I’m sure they felt like superstars walking around and passing out the books to the students in each class!
The second part of Action during Service Learning, is Direct Action, number 4b.
Next my Service Learners took a field trip to a local park to plant a native garden.
We worked with a local organization, who serves the community by meeting the need we defined during the Preparation step. This organization had the expertise necessary to guide us in accomplishing our goal of meeting the identified community need.
Direct Action requires a hands-on activity that affects change in the community… and I would definitely say their work was hands-on! These kids worked SO hard. They took turns digging holes, pulling weeds, spreading compost… and later mulch.
Throughout their day of Direct Action, they paused to take time for reflection in their Visual Journals.
At the end, the students realized the ways the native plants helped achieve a solution to our community’s need on a small scale.
Now, through their learning during this project, they are equipped to develop their thinking to find innovate solutions on a much larger scale.
Many of our students may not find their future careers in the area of the Arts. As they encounter a community issue in their adulthood, they are now experienced with the skills they’ll require in finding a solution to meeting the needs of their community.
The last step in the process of Service Learning is Demonstration, number 5.
Demonstration celebrates and recognizes the hard work of the students. They are given the opportunity to culminate their project with a “grand finale”, so to speak.
For our Demonstration step, we decided to conduct a ceremony at our school. Parents, family and friends could attend to see their student recognized. We held the assembly to hand out badges of appreciation and display photos and reflections of our learning.
The ceremony was so special to me. I was able to express my gratitude for the students collaboration on the entire project. As a teacher, it was a way to provide project closure through recapping every step of the project. The students were given certificates from the foundation and they smiled from ear to ear as they displayed their sincere efforts throughout the project.
Additionally, we held a Silent Auction with donated items. The proceeds were donated as an additional benefit to our Service Learning Partner organization.
Overall, I have learned the importance of learning through service in the Art Room. The experience of having students create their art with meaning and purpose encourages my teaching and brightens my outlook- knowing that we do, as Art Educators, have the opportunity to impact change in our world, through the hearts and minds of our students.