Natchitoches 4-H Safety Service-Learning Crew, Teens Constructing a Safer Tomorrow

Janet Fox, Brumbaugh,LauraM.  |  10/8/2009 8:36:16 PM

4-H'ers from Natchitoches Parish participated in the Safety Crew, Teens Constructing a Safer Tomorrow service-learning project.

Goals: To establish a service-learning project at Marthaville Jr. High with seventh-grade students during health class to increase civic engagement among participants. To teach life skills of responsibility, self-reflection, communication and teamwork among participants.

Objectives: The participants will learn about the service-learning cycle through lessons taught by 4-H agent Laura Brumbaugh and project leader Lynn LaCaze. The participants will lead class sessions by planning team-building activities and leading reflection activities. The participants will work in teams to be taught the life skills of communication, teamwork and responsibility as well as do class presentations. The participants will engage in self-reflection activities to increase self-awareness and to value the feeling of generosity.

Needs Assessment: The class as a team formulated a questionnaire and distributed it to members of their communities. The questionnaire asked about problems within the community, attitudes about service and general ideas for service. They also performed a self-reflection in their journals to identify needs that they thought were important. Also, they looked at and discussed news stories in the Natchitoches Times to identify issues within their school community. Lastly, they interviewed their principal, Terry Williams, to identify issues within their school community. With the assistance of the AgCenter office, the survey results were compiled. The participants then analyzed the responses in groups and came up with the consensus of a realistic program that they could perform, which would be to teach AgCenter safety lessons to our fourth- and fifth-grade classes at their school.

Steps in Planning: Youth identified the top three concerns from needs assessment. Youth voted and chose safety as their service-learning program topic. Youth discussed and came to a consensus to teach safety lessons to fourth- and fifth-grade students. This would also help to develop mentor figures to these youth, which was also identified as a need during the assessment. Youth then looked at the AgCenter safety lessons from the Intranet and chose four lessons that fit in with the needs of the assessment. The topics chosen were ATV, weather/storm, hunting and home alone safety. Youth broke themselves up into groups that would teach the lessons. Youth worked in these groups, researching about their topics. They worked on their presentations and created display boards to be used with their lessons. They also had to identify what they needed for their programs and prepare all materials for their lessons. Throughout the preparation time, they were involved in their normal health class as well, where safety was discussed on many topics by teacher Lynn LaCaze. During the month of April, the service-learning participants taught their lessons to the fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Marthaville Elementary. The classes totaled 67 students who were taught and mentored by the service-learning participants.

Service Experiences: The youth involved with the project had the following experiences: They served as mentors to the younger students as they taught safety lessons. They encouraged safety practices and habits to the students they were teaching. They brought awareness of topics that were identified in their needs assessment and serviced the actual needs. The youth gave their time and talents to the community as well.

Celebrations: At the end of the project, service-learning participants went on a field trip to Lake Martin on a swamp tour in St. Martin Parish and enjoyed lunch and the afternoon at the Acadian Mall in Lafayette. Although exciting, the tour was educational as the students learned about the history of Lake Martin, bird rookery, native plants and the way of life for the natives who first settled the land. The group was most excited with seeing six alligators on the tour.

Reflection: Large group reflection: Students were allowed to express their ideas, thoughts and opinions at the opening and closing of each “service-learning class session” by using Tommy the Trusty Turtle. The only student who could talk would be the one holding the turtle. This tool was used as a guide of communication as well as a symbol of trust and to build that trust among participants. Journaling: At the beginning and end of each class session, the students answered questions posed by class leaders and adults in their journals. Also, the state service-learning evaluation was administered to the students at the end of the celebration.

The project lasted 40 hours and reached 67 people as of 4/19/2009.

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