What is a service learning project?
A service learning project is designed to encourage Junior Soldiers to think about creative ways they can use their skills and talents to help make our community a better place. This is done by coming up with an organised community activity that is used to serve the community. For example making muffins, and handing them out free of charge to people in the community and telling people “here is a free gift for you because we want to make you smile and share God’s love with you”.
This activity would need to be organised by the group members, and over seen by a parent or group leader/mentor. Once organised the activity would be executed by the group, again overseen by the mentor. Once the activity is completed a series of reflection questions can be discussed about the experience. Now in this activity example you will obviously have people who are reluctant to receive a free gift, people suspicious of the catch, people who are blown away by the generosity and people wanting to know why you have done this. It is a great example to teach the kids to reflect on human behaviour and their response to it.
Why is Reflection So Important?
Reflection is a key component to effective learning projects. Structured reflection helps us...
- Consider what we accomplish and learn during an activity.
- Contemplate ways the experience could be adjusted to improve the outcome.
- Formulate concrete ideas of how we can use the experience in other areas of our lives.
- Share their ideas and feelings with others.
- Communicate the value of our participation and other participants.
Reflection is also a key component in the Experiential Learning Cycle (or “Learning by Doing” model). This learning model is a researched-based, effective method of structuring positive youth development activities. The Experiential Learning Cycle can be described using the following model.
In this model, a participant completes an activity and then reflects on their participation. The reflection helps us formulate how the experience relates to other aspects of our lives. We use this new knowledge by applying it to our lives and making appropriate changes in future activities. Once other activities begin, the cycle repeats itself.
Not only is reflection a key component in experiential learning it is an integral part of debriefing a service project. It can also be an equally powerful tool when incorporated into other activities because reflection activities can increase the educational outcomes for participants when used with the following example activities:
- With camp counsellors midway through a camp.
- After a performance of some kind.
- As part of a year-end dinner to help members reflect about the past year.
- With a project group after an event.
- After a trip or recreational activity.
- At the completion of a fundraising activity.
- After the first dress rehearsal of a performance.
The possibilities for incorporating reflection activities into youth and adult activities are endless. The best part is that the reflection activities are quick, hands-on, and fun for the participants and leaders!
As mentors and parents let the group decide on what kind of activity they would like to be involved in. Among the young people will be loads of creative ideas. Simply facilitate the conversation by keeping them focussed on the task. Allow the kids to be as creative as they want, after all this is their project for making the world a better place.
Help them in the organisation process of the service activity, but don’t do things for them, accept those things that are unsafe e.g. using an oven for cooking muffins. It is important that they feel empowered to run the activity.
As a mentor/parent think about the experience the participants will be reflecting on, any desired outcome(s) of the reflection process, how long you will have to facilitate the reflection activity, and your comfort and experience level in leading a group in a reflective process.
Don’t be afraid to adapt or think of more appropriate reflective questions for your group, or you may want to try and combine one or more of the activities. The possibilities are endless! As you begin to feel more comfortable in facilitating reflective activities and have the opportunity to see the positive effects of reflection on group participants, you will have a better grasp of how to adapt these and other activities to meet you and your group’s needs. God Bless and have fun!
Here are some example questions that can be used for most activities:
- What did you like best about this service activity?
- What did you like least about this service activity?
- What did you learn by participating in this service activity?
- What are two or three words you can use to describe how you feel about this service activity?
- What are some other service activities that you would like to do?
- Why was it important that we worked together to complete this service activity?
- What, if anything, will you do differently at home because of the experiences you had while participating in this service activity?
- Would you like to participate in this service activity again? Why or why not?
- If we did this service activity again, what could we do to make it better?