Community Service to Community Service Learning Back »

Written by Karelyn Farrand (former SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program Advisor).

As a youth leader you may have completed many community service projects with your youth and now want to know how you can take your Community Service Project to the next level which is Community Service Learning or Civic Engagement.  In this article I will be addressing Community Service Learning.  There are six steps to Community Service Learning:

  1.  Researching and Finding a Community Need
  2.  Identifying a Project
  3.  Planning and Preparing
  4.  Carrying out the Project
  5.  Reflection
  6.  Celebration.


Community Service Learning is composed of youth: 
1. Researching and Finding a Community Need by:

  •  Asking members and families.
  •  Asking other community groups.
  •  Talking with community officials.
  •  Finding out what types of service projects have/have not been done in the recent past.
  •  Asking your local 4-H staff.

2. Identifying a Project - List all of the activities that have been suggested in step number one.  Ask your group to discuss the possibilities and rank in order of importance and interest based on the information that was gathered from the sources in step one.  Reach consensus or use a vote by majority rule to determine the activity your group will do. If your group is large, consider forming a committee to develop priorities. Then, the group can simply accept or vote on the committee's recommendations.

3. Planning and Preparing –After your group has decided what community service project to focus on, develop a plan.  Your youth will learn organizational skills in developing a plan. A plan doesn't have to be overly detailed and formal, but should include the following

  •  Identify exactly what will be done. Determine the overall goal, specific tasks and the time frame.  
  •  Obtain necessary permissions in advance.
  •  Develop a budget for the project.
  •  Obtain needed equipment or supplies.
  •  Determine how many people will be needed.
  •  Ask members to volunteer for specific duties and get a commitment from them.            
  •  Encourage members to report progress on their assigned duties.
  •  Make safety a priority.
  •  Alert mass media representatives and your county 4-H staff concerning your project plans.
  •  Publicize the efforts of your group and the 4-H program.

4. Action or carrying out the project - In a community service learning project, the 
project is based upon the experiential learning cycle, the experience for the youth
comes first.  As you work on this project, monitor the activities taking place and
make adjustments as needed.

5. Reflection – When the project has been completed, allow time for youth to journal, or discuss the project.  This will generate ideas for improvement and allow celebration for the successes.  The Experiential Learning cycle includes share, process, generalize and apply questions.  The questions below will help you support this learning phase.
You can help youth share their experience by asking:

  •  What did you do?
  •  What did your group do when...?
  •  What did you see, hear, feel, taste?
  •  What was most difficult? Easiest? Most rewarding?

You can help youth process the experience by asking:

  •  What problems did you run into?
  •  What did you learn (life skill or subject matter) through this activity?
  •  Why is the life skill you learned important?
  •  How was the experience different from what you expected?


You can help youth generalize by asking:

  •  What similar experiences have you had (with this life skill or subject matter)?
  •  What similar challenge/problem/feeling have you faced? What did you do then?

You can help youth apply the lessons learned by asking:

  •  What can we do individually or as a group to have more impact in this area?
  •  What one thing can you do next week that will make a difference?
  •  What will you notice in the future that you didn’t notice before?


6. Celebration – Develop a summary report including a written description, photos, news clippings etc. of your group's experience when the project has been completed.  Share it with mass media representatives and the local 4-H staff.  You may also celebrate by using certificates, parties, assemblies and thank-you cards.

For a step-by-step guide on how to implement a hands-on Community Service Learning Project at your club view the National 4-H Cooperative Service Learning Curriculum.  

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