The holiday season is here, and I have been thinking about ways to help my students think beyond themselves to help the community. I want to guide my students to become compassionate leaders who lead with kindness, empathy, and genuine concern for others. The best way to do this is to identify who or what the students care about and then have them learn by doing. This week I designed a scaffolded lesson to help students create their own service learning project for the community.
First, we examined types of things that we can share with the community. I call these the three T’s: time, talent, and treasure. We talked about how these three categories all have value, are needed, and can be donated to individuals or organizations. Each student brainstormed ideas of the three T’s they could share. Here are the questions I used as conversation starters and examples we came up with. Some categories overlap and that is ok!
Time– How can you share your time with others? Some examples were volunteering, mentoring, or picking up trash.
Talent– What talents do you have that you could share with others? Some talents were baking, singing, proofreading, or making crafts.
Treasure– What do you value that you can share with others? I wanted my students to expand their thinking past raising or donating money. Some ideas were gently used clothing and shoes, or random acts of kindness.
From here, I asked my students to think about groups or organizations that they care about and could share their T’s with. Our students are involved in many activities outside of school, so it was easy for them to identify communities they would be interested in helping. Some ideas they had were local horse ranches, a local theater group, county parks, and the library. My students agreed that all of these places would benefit from the three T’s in a range of ways, whether it be volunteering there or showing kindness and appreciation for the organization.
Once my students understood the impact they could make as individuals, we widened our focus to see how we can help as a group. Our goal is to create a service learning project to help a community that we come in contact with regularly. We brainstormed possibilities like the local rangers at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, the CoastPride center, and a local bookstore. Our next step is to decide which time, talent, treasure, or combination of the three, we will share with our community of choice.
Teens care deeply about the communities they feel connected to. They are at the age where they can absolutely help and make a difference, but sometimes they are not sure where to start. My hope is with this scaffolded approach, my students can learn to identify their personal gifts they can give in the form of the three T’s, and then channel them toward a community in need that they care about. Compassionate leadership starts with caring and connection and I am excited to see where our service project will go in the coming weeks!