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Monday, May 24, 2010

DC SCORES' service-learning: benefitting students and their surrounding communities

This being the final week of spring programming, DC SCORES students are completing their service-learning projects. But what exactly does this mean? Communications & Events Director Tohry Petty explains:

The mission of DC SCORES is to inspire youth to lead healthy lifestyles, be engaged students, and become agents of change in their communities. Through the tools of soccer, creative writing, and service-learning every day after school, DC SCORES reaches 700 poet-athletes in 23 schools across the District of Columbia.

Wait. Service-learning?

People unfamiliar with our unique program often ask about the connection between soccer, creative writing, and service-learning and their benefits for youth. They see the importance of physical fitness and school engagement in the short- and long-term development of the student, but may not identify how service-learning can benefit a student’s growth and development.

Well, service-learning combines the act of community service with an educational twist: Participants take part in the planning of the project and reflect on the project after its completion – discussing its purpose, benefit to the community, and its effect on themselves.

Each spring DC SCORES students continue to study poetry in the context of our Writing for the Community (elementary school) and Leadership in Action (middle school) curricula, which guides each team through the service-learning process. They begin their service-learning projects with a look around. Called a “Community Walk,” students jot down challenges they observe or issues that may need fixing or improvement; they come together as a group and develop the project that they will work on as a team to make a change within their community. With the project decided, students write letters to their principals, and contact local organizations, businesses, and city council members for support of their endeavor.

Under last year’s theme of “healthy living,” the students at Marie Reed Learning Center created a project to begin a recycling program at their school. The students designed and hung posters throughout the school, provided each classroom with recycling containers, and initiated a partnership with a local recycling center.

At Kelly Miller Middle School, students created a campaign to combat obesity and raise awareness about healthy lifestyles. Called the “Fight for Your Life” campaign, the DC SCORES team at Kelly Miller organized a school-wide mile run/walk. They created informational posters that were displayed throughout the school, surveyed students about their lifestyles, organized other students and teachers to participate, and created a public service announcement to educate their peers.

Participation in service-learning activities can benefit youth in a number of ways. The breakdown of the service project through planning and reflection promotes problem-solving skills, planning abilities, and the ability to work within a team. Students also become more engaged in their communities as they learn that they can impact real challenges that exist within their neighborhoods.

Beyond the students involved, the community and the people served also greatly benefit. For example, the recycling program started by the DC SCORES team at Reed is still in effect and has been adopted as the school’s recycling program.

This season, the theme for DC SCORES’ service-learning projects has been “the environment.” At the beginning of the spring DC SCORES season, students and coaches brainstormed ways to preserve the environment, promote environmental awareness, or highlight a specific project.

This week, each of our 23 schools are finishing up their projects and honing them for presentations that will be made at the June 5 Jamboree.

Knowing the creativity that exists among students of all the DC SCORES schools, the possibilities for projects are endless but one thing is certain – the environment is undergoing a positive change this spring.

-- Written by Tohry Petty, Communications & Events Director

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