Kids Taking Action is an enjoyable and practical introduction to Community Service Learning (CSL) for parents, teachers, and interested humanitarians. But just what is CSL?
Broadly speaking, CSL refers to the social and intellectual education that volunteers gain while performing community service. In Kids Taking Action, author Pamela Roberts walks the reader through the logistics and the magic behind CSL projects at the K-8 level in several schools in Massachusetts.
For example, in a chapter called "Biographies of Nursing Home Residents," Roberts describes how a project in which seventh-graders interviewed elderly residents at a senior home was transformed into a learning experience. Through the project, the kids got a first-hand education about the elderly in America and developed their writing, public speaking, and social skills by interacting with the seniors and composing biographies of them.
In another fascinating example, Roberts describes how fifth-graders decided to take action against bias in literature by creating a pamphlet entitled "6 Quick Ways for Kids to Analyze Kids' Books for Bias." The fifth-graders first read pamphlets on this subject for adults and then rewrote the guidelines in child-friendly language, making a brochure more accessible to children and youth. Wow, parents and teachers beware! These and other examples of kids taking charge of their own education might leave you breathless.
Because some projects in the book span several months or years, patience,structure, and follow-up are key to the successful incorporation of CSL projects into a school's curriculum. Elementary school teachers on a short timeline may want to consider, among others, the "Books on Tape" project, in which fifth-graders recorded books for first-graders, refining their own reading and speaking skills in the process.
Meant as a primer, Kids Taking Action doesn't go into much detail about how to secure funding for these school projects; moreover, Roberts addresses only generally how to select, administer, and evaluate CSL programs. Most of the projects tend to focus on developing liberal arts skills, and a few more emphasizing the development of math and science skills through CSL would have rounded out the book. There are a few, however, and science teachers can look for ideas in the descriptions of the "Salmon Restoration" and"Wetlands as Classroom and Service Opportunity" projects.
In terms of layout, the book is a short, quick read. It contains chapters describing five projects in depth, followed by briefer chapters that depict thirteen more projects. For its scope, Kids Taking Action is an impressive book written by a parent and experienced journalist who became interested in the subject when her daughter got involved in a CSL project at school. Roberts's accessible and intelligent writing style draws the reader into the exciting world of CSL and settles any doubts about integrating CSL into school curricula across the country.
For citations to other materials on this topic, please refer to the Literature of the NonprofitSector Online, using the subject heading "Community service" or"Voluntarism."