4-H Community Service
Basics of Community Service
It is important to share kindness, but even more important to understand why we as youth or adults are sharing kindness. Here is a guide adapted from University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension to help you understand the difference between "service-learning" and "community service". All leaders, parents, and adults are encouraged to read and go over this with the youth in their clubs.
In record books, 4-H members should describe all activities so the judges understand what they did. Simply listing the name of the park or writing 'bake sale' does not tell the reader anything except those activities are not service. However, if the description said, "Park clean-up at Memory Park to give the community a place to enjoy nature and socialize", or "Bake sale to raise money for the Children's Hospital of Phoenix so they can purchase blankets for sick children", then it would be community service.
- Service-learning Community Service - is the ideal community service we want to see in 4-H. Service learning creates an atmosphere where youth continue to develop important life skills. It is a form of learning where students apply knowledge, skills and decision-making to address community needs (see additonal resources for service-learning found within this material).
- Community Service - volunteering done in the community. Example: cleaning the floors at the YMCA.
- Volunteerism - a term used to refer to people who choose on their own to perform some service for others without pay. Example: working concession stand at High School football game for free.
- Advocacy - Volunteers work to advocate for the alleviation of a community issue. Example: Passing out flyers about homelessness and why it matters.
- Direct Service - Volunteers work directly with community members or those being served. Example: Preparing and serving meals at a soup kitchen.
- Indirect Service - Volunteers work on an issue for a more "behind the scenes" approach. Example: Developing legislation to address and help solve an issue in the community.
According to the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, service-learning is a method whereby participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that:
- Is organized in and meets the needs of a community;
- Helps foster civic responsibility;
- Enhances the educational component of the community service agency; and,
- Provides structured time for participants to reflect on the service experience.
- In short, service-learning is community service that teaches volunteers about themselves and the world around them.
The key to remember for any service project or activity is to ask these questions:
- Why are we doing this activity?
- How does it impact the community?
- Who will this impact or help?
- What will I learn?
- What did I learn by participating in this activity?
Good Examples of 4-H Community Service
- Park Clean-up
- Using photography skills to help animal shelters market adoptable pets
- Volunteering at senior-assisted living home, veterans hospital, youth mentoring program (Big Brothers Big Sisters or Boys and Girls Club), adult center, etc.
- Planning and implementing a county-wide food drive
- Organizing a blanket drive for ill-stricken youth or soldiers
- Organizing a blood-drive
What does NOT count as any type of service?
Bake Sales- these are fundraisers for the club unless specified otherwise
Parades- serve as an opportunity to promote and market 4-H and should be listed under Communications in record books
EXPO Tent Set-Ups- whether they are for EXPO or scholarship set-ups, this is part of being a 4-H member and only benefits you as a member. This is not “lending your hands to larger service”.
Petting Zoos- Public relations, marketing and promotion of 4-H and should be listed under Communications. These are sometimes fundraisers as well.
Caroling- If it is just listed in record books as ‘caroling’, it is not service. However, if there is more description: “Christmas caroling at local nursing home for elderly who do not have families to spend the holidays with.” Then it is service.
Elements of Service-learning
Youth Voice and Planning: Listening to and engaging youth in the service-learning process provides more ownership and greater learning opportunities for the young people.
Community Need and Voice: Service-learning projects should meet real community needs. To truly solve problems and provide authentic learning opportunities for youth, actively engage the community in identifying needs. For example, host a mini-community forum and invite community stakeholders to attend. Contact local officials and government for issues they feel need to be addressed in the community.
Learning Objectives: Youth should understand what they are expected to learn through their service. Outline objectives of what youth will learn on a personal, social, and intellectual level.
Orientation and Training: Provide effective service and maximize the learning experience, youth must understand all aspects of the project: issues, organization, expectations, atmosphere of service site, date and time, personalities of beneficiaries, legalities, skills for any equipment they may use, what could go wrong, etc.
Meaningful Service: A successful service experience requires thorough planning of goals, resources, supervision, transportation, logistics, and risk management.
Reflection: Youth should employ critical thinking skills to examine the service experience. This proves helps youth to grow on a personal, social, and intellectual level.
Evaluation: Throughout the service experience, youth and adults should analyze the process (what was done) and the impact (result) of the service.
Celebration and Recognition: Youth should always be recognized and celebrated for providing valuable service to the community. Celebration can bring closure to the project and reinforces the value of the young people’s connection to what they accomplished.
Reflect on Your 4-H Experiences:
Who did I help>
Why did I participate in the activity?
How did my participation in this activity benefit my community?
What did I know about my community before participating in this activity?
What do I know about my community after completing in this activity?
What did my community look like before I participated in this activity?
What does my community look like after I comleted this activity?
What did I learn by participating in this activity?
How could I have improved my experience during this activity?
What would I keep the same?
Did I meet new people? If so, who? What did he, she, or they teach me?
What new skills did I learn?
Which of my skills did I discover need improvement?
What is Your Definition of Service?
People define service in many different ways. To help get your team or club "on the same page", here is a list of some examples. Study the list carefully, Rank the list from 1-14. Place a "1" next to the actino that most closely represents your personal philosophy of what Service-Learning is. Place a "2" next to the action that is the second closest to your philosophy of service, etc.
Go over everyone’s answers and discuss as a group.
____ Joining the armed forces.
____ Providing a dinner once a week at a homeless shelter
____ Talking with a friend.
____ Chaining yourself to an old growth tree as long as you can, so loggers will not take it.
____ Leaving your car and biking to work or school every day.
____ Giving $50 to the United Way.
____ Walking a frail person across a busy street.
____ Giving blood.
____ Tutoring a person that cannot read.
____ Adopting an eight-year old boy.
____ Picking up trash in the neighborhood.
____ Hawaiian youth teaching tourists to say, “Mahalo.”
____ Working as a legislative aide.
____ Donating canned goods to the local food drive
Community service should impact you just as much as it impacts the community. Visit University of Nebraska-Lincoln's 366 Community Service Ideas for more ways to volunteer. When choosing a community service activity, use the questions below to help direct your decision. These questions will also help you determine what you learned from the community service activity or 4-H event.