Honoring MLK Day: 8 Resources for Service Learning

(Editor’s Note: Updated January 13, 2015)

While the iconic leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., will long be remembered for his focus on the civil rights movement, his peaceful activism extended beyond issues of race to include other problems in society, such as poverty. He believed deeply in the power of a united community and in creating a better future for everyone, and so it’s no surprise that we celebrate his legacy with a “Day of Service.”

The thing about service is, it is a gift that gives back, even when you expect nothing in return. It teaches us empathy, and brings us closer to others, sometimes in unexpected ways. When I was in the second grade, my parents took me with them to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. I liked the work, learning how to nail together a frame for the house, painting doors, watching concrete being laid. We worked for several weeks, and on the day we turned over the keys to the family that was moving in, I was excited to see one of my best friends in my class at the ceremony. “What are you doing here?” I asked him. He looked at me, a bit puzzled, and replied, “We’re here to see our new house.”

I hope we all feel at some point in our lives the joyful glow that comes from helping those in need. In the words of Dr. King, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” To help you find your own project, we’ve gathered links to a number of organizations dedicated to service and service learning to help you incorporate some of these themes in your classroom.

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FIND A PROJECT, PLAN A PROJECT

1. You can learn more about the Day of Service on the official site for the MLK holiday. You can find projects in your community, or register a project of your own with All For Good.

2. President Obama’s national service initiative, United We Serve, has a vast wealth of resources, including toolkits to help people turn their volunteer ideas into a successful service project.

LESSON PLANS AND RESOURCES

1. Edutopia outlines 6 steps on how to integrate service learning in your classroom.

2. The New York Times blog on education provides an extensive list of lesson plans for service learning, as well as articles about giving and service from the newspaper.

3. Roots & Shoots, the curriculum-based service learning program by the Jane Goodall Institute and the Pearson Foundation, offers lesson plans, curriculum resources and professional development materials for teachers.

4. Chicago Public Schools has a multitude of project preparation resource kits, many of which could be adapted for use in your class.

5. MONUMENTAL is the National Service-Learning Conference where “Both youth and adults gain the tools, resources, ideas, and inspiration to return home to improve their practice, their schools, and their communities.” The conference will take place in April of this year; registration ends on March 17th.

6. The National Youth Leadership Council offers helpful webinars on service learning, as well as a resource library. They also host the Generator School Network, which connects people “who are passionate about engaging young people as leaders.”

In the comment section below, share with us examples of service learning that you’ve done with your students!

Elizabeth Weiland is Teaching Channel’s Advertising and Licensing Account Manager. Follow her on Twitter, @ElizabetWeiland.

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