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  • Create a culture of service project with students age 10-12

    Teaching students about giving back has a place in the classroom, especially when it has roots in learning. Youth Service America has created amazing guides for teachers on how to carry out these projects, one version of which you can learn about here.

    Setting: Schools

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    Organization/people involved

    Youth Service America

    What they did

    Jake McCollum, Sarah Bayer, and their students at IB Lincoln World Middle School engaged in YSA’s Semester of Service, a program in which teachers and students work together to connect meaningful community service activities with intentional learning goals and academic outcomes.

    More than 130 eighth graders did a Semester of Service – or a “STEMester of Service” – applying their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to community issues. Students focused on local water quality and natural resources, and researched hydraulic fracturing, a major issue in their Colorado community.

    Students hosted a “conversation café” with local leaders, community partners, and energy company officials to share their research findings and facilitate discussions about the pros and cons of fracking. Students launched a school-wide energy awareness campaign and concluded the school year by organizing a neighborhood “Zero-Energy District” Energy Expo.

    Adaptable to most classroom settings and subject areas, all Semester of Service projects include these key elements that are known to promote student engagement:

    How you can do it


    Students reduced energy use at school by 25% in four days and raised awareness of energy conservation in their community.

    Perceptions about teaching and teaching practices changed as a result of this project. Jake wrote as he reflected on this project, “The program took me out of being a teacher and into being a facilitator working with the students. This has forever transformed my teaching and expectations of what kids can and should do.”

    Big takeaways

    Jake suggests letting students create a list of potential issues and guiding them to choose one with which they will experience success. He says, “Success is vital to the power of service learning.”

    Jake’s mentor, Sarah, used YSA’s resources throughout the year. “Thanks to the great structure that YSA has provided, we have been able to connect our entire science curriculum to the project using the Semester of Service Strategy Guide.”


    Photo credit: Youth Service America

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