Written by Karelyn Farrand (former SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program Advisor).
Community Service is an important function among 4-H youth. The longitudinal 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development reported a notable trend indicates that 4-H youth are 3.3 times more likely to actively contribute to their communities when compared with youth who do not participate in 4-H.
A community service project can take many forms. A typical youth, community service project is collecting food for a food drive for those with less resources. While this type of community service is important it is also important for youth to learn how to take their community service efforts to the next level which is Community Service Learning or Civic Engagement.
So by now you may be asking yourself, “What is the difference between community service, service learning and civic engagement?”
Community Service - is any activity ranging from a one-time volunteer experience to a long term commitment in a community resulting in a positive contribution to the receiver of the service or good.
Community Service Learning - takes an academic approach to community service. Service-learning, according to Jacoby (1996), is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.
Civic Engagement – looks at a community issue and addresses how this local issue is being addressed as a public issue and how that issue is being dealt with on a political level.
So while community service, community service learning and civic engagement are very, very similar, the difference:
- The scope of the impact
- Is the project youth lead?
To determine which type of Community Service your youth should participate in you should consider the following:
- Determine what types of activities your members have interest in and abilities to carry out.
- Consider the size of your group and ages of members.
- Consider the skills possessed by group members and their families.
- Determine how much time your group would like to devote in community service
- Would members rather do one ongoing community service project that may last several months or more, or several short-term activities?
- You may wish to start small and build on successes.
Listed below are a few Community Service Project Ideas.
5-8 Year Olds
- Painting and filling clay pots with plants for residents at a care facility.
- Making artwork and hanging it at community centers.
- Group garage sale and giving the profits to a charity.
- Hosting a Welcome Party for new youth in the community.
9-12 Year Olds
- Making bird feeders and setting up a bird feeding station at a hospital.
- Research after-school program issues (for example respect for fellow after-school team members) and make posters to display concerning the issue.
- Setting up pen pals from the U.S. or other countries to share ways to help neighborhoods.