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The Difference Between Service Learning and Community Service

Youth and adults cleaning up their community

photo credit: National 4-H Council

One of the requirements for 4-H clubs to be chartered is annual participation in a service project because it helps youth develop compassion and empathy for others. This is an important step to help youth live our pledge “my heart to greater loyalty” and “my hands to greater service.”  Recently, the terms community service and service learning are being used interchangeably, but they are not the same. This post will explain the difference between the two and provide additional resources for 4-H parents, volunteers and club officers.

What is community service?

Community service is usually a “one and done” activity. It is often associated with short term volunteerism, and sometimes can be associated with court-mandated sentences. Community service includes things like a food drive, clothing drive, or litter pick up. These types of activities help youth apply the “heart” and “hands” parts of our pledge, but youth typically do not organize the activities; they are often done in collaboration with another organization, such as Toys for Tots, a local food pantry, or Adopt a Highway. Community service is a great way to introduce the concepts of giving back to the community and helping others. It is very appropriate for our younger 4-H members, who don’t yet have the critical thinking, decision making, and leadership skills to execute a service-learning project.

What is service learning?

Service learning engages not only the “heart” and “hands” but also the “head.”  Service learning is a process in which youth identify a need, develop solutions to address that need, implement a plan to put their solution into action, and reflect on the results of their action. Service learning should be planned and implemented by youth, with parents and volunteers supporting and guiding the process. Service learning is more appropriate for older youth who are ready to take on more responsibility. Service learning not only helps youth develop a sense of compassion, but it also helps them develop more independence.

So What’s the Difference?Community service vs service learning

For example, when a 4-H club decides to lead a food drive for the local pantry, they are contributing to the issue of food insecurity.  Food drives are an effective way to meet the immediate need for more food, or more nutritious food. Our annual Peanut Butter Drive is a great way for 4-Hers to get involved with food insecurity; the Florida Peanut Producers match what is collected and everything is donated to a local food pantry. However, if youth want to address the issue of food insecurity in a more systemic way, they might choose to apply GPS technology to map the food deserts in their community or county. Next, they might present their findings to county commissioners or the chamber of commerce. Together, they brainstorm solutions on how to address food insecurity issues in those food deserts, but increasing awareness, or finding partners to provide sources of nutritious food. After implementing solutions, they look back and reflect on what they did, what worked, and what could be improved for next time.

Download this one-page document to help explain the difference between community service and service learning. This is a great resource for volunteers, parents and club officers. Next week, we will share ideas for service learning and community service related to a variety of issues, that can be a great discussion starter for your club meetings this fall!

If you have a passion for civic engagement and making a difference in your community, consider sharing your passion and skills with youth. We need volunteers to help youth understand what it means to be engaged in their community, and volunteers to empower youth to make a difference locally. We match volunteers’ skills and schedules with our program. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office for more information.

It’s not too late to apply for Community Pride Funds!

4-H Guide to Community Pride Grants4-H clubs and individual members of all ages are eligible to participate in a Community Pride Project. This project is a great way to directly impact your community through a special service learning project of your choice. Service learning is an experiential learning activity and you can read more about what service learning is here or here.

Community Pride is a service learning program. The objectives of the Community Pride Program are:

  • Youth learn about their community and the impact the community has on their lives.
  • Youth understand how to relate to their community as individuals and through group cooperation so they can effectively work in community activities, programs, and organizations.
  • Youth develop skills and knowledge in community leadership.
  • Youth gain experience carrying out community projects to improve their environment.
  • Youth develop an interest in and love for their community.

How Does Community Pride Work?

4-H member setting up trap for feral cat in community

4-H member in Martin County sets up a trap for feral cats as part of the Community Pride Project Photo by: Natalie Parkell

During the project a community issue is identified, a service project is selected, a plan is implemented by the group, and reflection and reporting take place.

What types of projects can you complete through the Community Pride Grant?

That is up to you! The best thing about the project is that you get to select your service learning project based on you community’s need. There are five main steps to the Community Pride Project and those are listed in detail below. Martin County 4-H members received a Community Pride Grant to help combat feral cats in their neighborhood and you can read more about it here. Broward County 4-H members have completed a variety of projects through this program and you can see the variety of projects here. If you would like to receive a Community Pride Grant to complete a service project of your choice, follow the steps below and contact your county 4-H Agent for assistance.

Cat that was captured and released after being neutered through a Martin County 4-H Project

One of the cats that was captured, neutered, and released as part of Martin County 4-H’s Community Pride Project combating feral cats. Photo by: Natalie Parkell

Step 1: Community Needs Assessment

A Needs Assessment might sound intimidating and complicated, but it is a very simple step. Think of a needs assessment as a brainstorming session with the club members. They will share their input from their personal experiences in the community to figure out what project should be selected. It is important for this part to be youth-led because you want to select a project that has a community need and an interest from the youth. During the brainstorming session you will also come up with potential solutions to the problem.

Step 2: Creating a Project Plan

The next step is to create a project plan based on the ideas that were generated during the brainstorming session. Youth will select a solution that they can work towards and this solution will be the project. It is important to consider what steps will need to be completed to make the solution a reality (i.e. supply needs, work days, locating community partners, and more).

Step 3: Submit a Project Proposal 

Your next step is to submit a proposal. All 4-H groups (or individual members) who would like to participate in this program must submit a proposal for funding of their Community Pride Project. Proposals accepted from the county must be emailed to 4hcontests@ifas.ufl.edu at the State 4-H Headquarters by the January 11, 2021 deadline date to be considered for the current 4-H years funding. Groups that are awarded funding will be notified via email in February with further instructions on your n

Step 4: Implement your Project

Now for the fun part! This is where you get to put your project plan into action and complete your community project. You will create your own timeline and schedule for the project and it will need to be completed between February through May 2021.

Step 5: Evaluate and Report

After your project is complete, it is time for you to reflect on all your hard work. During this time you will also evaluate the project and submit an official report to the state office by June 1, 2021. The state 4-H Office will conduct judging of all the completed projects during the first week of June. Participants in the Top Five Projects will be invited to a recognition breakfast!

2021 Community Pride Grant Important Dates:

  • January 11th, 2021 – Project Proposals Due
  • February 2021 – Grant Monies Disbursed
  • February to May 2021 – Project Implementation
  • June 1st, 2021 – Project Reports Due

Looking for COVID-19 “friendly” Service Project Ideas?  Check out this earlier post for suggestions!

Spirit of Giving through Community Service in 4-H

Care stockings for elderly residents.

Amid holiday season, one of the busiest times of the year, it’s a great opportunity to find ways to serve others.  There are many activities that will allow you to safely relieve the fatigue of quarantine, virtual school and zoom meetings by getting into the spirit of giving through 4-H service projects.

Traditionally, community service projects would include a group of 4-H members banding together one day to clean yards for the elderly or visit nursing homes or volunteer at local shelters.  Although COVID-19 limits many forms of our traditional service projects, youth and their families can still coordinate amazing opportunities amidst our new normal of social distancing.  Remember, while participating in any 4-H affiliated programs or projects, all members, families, and volunteers must adhere to our safety protocols which include but are not limited to wearing masks the entire time, remaining 6-feet apart, hand sanitizing and washing regularly, and more found here.

Here are some safe alternatives to implement with your local 4-H program, club, or businesses:

  • Power Hour Yardwork– If outside activities are your forte, have families sign up to clean one location together as a family unit. Remain masked, gloved, and wash hands regularly to ensure safety of yourself and others.  Set obtainable goals for your one-hour timeframe to limit traffic and need for the use of facilities.
  • Business Lawn Decorating- Some business, such as Elderly Rehabilitation Centers and Nursing Homes, allow outside groups to decorate the outside areas of their facilities for the holidays. This is a great way to show off your creative side and even drum up some friendly competition. Remember to follow UF COVID guidelines (wear masks, social distancing, etc).
  • 4-H Care Stockings- Pack stockings with hygiene items, socks, word games, and/or prewrapped snacks and deliver them to long term care facilities or even local businesses. Be sure to include information on 4-H, whether it be a card, business card, or 4-H pledge bookmark!  You never know where we may find new 4-H Volunteers or members.
  • 4-H Book Buddies- Find a facility that would allow you to read a book (even better if you dressed in character) to their clientele. While this may not be feasible in person with COVID restrictions, offer to pre-record a session and either email or share the link!
  • Food Drives- Set up a location (preferably at your 4-H office) for locals to donate unperishable items in containers that can be sprayed with disinfectant spray. Work with your 4-H Agent or other adults to set up where these items will be distributed to.
  • 4-H Furever Gifts- Put those sewing (or tying) skills to good use and make some dog toys, blankets, or beds out of old t-shirts or jeans. These make perfect donation pieces to pet shelters and rescue facilities!
  • 4H Pen Pals- Contact your local elderly residential facilities to see if 4-H members could submit cards/letters to residents. Be sure to speak to someone in management to get approval for contact information.  Another alternative to this would be to contact classroom teachers and ask if you can send a letter or card to the class.  This would be a great way to recruit future 4-H’ers too as you share your own stories!

    4-H’ers packed pillow case hygiene packs for residents at the Chautauqua Rehabilitation Center.

Service projects are an excellent method of targeting life skills in the “head and heart” areas of the targeting life skills model.  Teaching our youth to care about others instills empathy while teaching them the spirit of giving activates community service volunteering.  For more ways to volunteer in your county, check with you local 4-H office and seek ways that you can volunteer with 4-H today!

4-H Celebrates November Month of the Military Family

Image with flag and military members saying Military Family Appreciation Month

Courtesy photo from https://media.defense.gov

When you think of military service, what words come to mind … training, deployments, relocation, freedom, service, and sacrifice? One word that most people overlook is… Family! According to National Child and Traumatic Stress Network “November was first declared as Military Family Month in 1996. Since then, November has been a time to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices our military families make. They contend with separation from their families and make adjustments to new living situations and communities. Military Families embody strength, resilience, and courage. Care of military families and children sustains our fighting force, and strengthens the health, security, and safety of our nation’s families and communities.”

Help 4-H recognize the Military Family this month. Many of us live in a community with active duty military families, and almost every community has a Guard or Reserve family that you may not realize are service members. These individuals have a different job in the community and serve in times of need.

For those of us without a military background, it can be difficult to know how to be supportive. You may want to meet military family’s needs but don’t know where to begin. Therefore, we have put together a few ideas to help you on your supportive journey.

  • Create something decorative to cheer up a veteran’s nursing home room. Picture, Mandala, Bookmark
  • If you have a new military family come to your community welcome them to the neighborhood or school. Help them find their way around, give them a list of best places in your community and your phone number in case they need help.
  • Leave a care package with family friendly activities and self-care items. Operation Gratitude and Operation Care & Comfort are two organizations that do this for military members.
  • Volunteer to babysit or take a child to a practice and give the military parent a break especially if one of the parents is deployed. Just having someone they can trust offer help is a big gift!
  • Volunteer your time to provide companionship, serve a meal, assemble holiday packages. Veterans’ advantage has a list of trusted organizations and nonprofits if you don’t have a person in mind.
  • Deliver a meal or prepare something that they can take from the freezer and put in the oven or microwave as a quick meal.
  • Send a thank you note expressing your appreciation for the family’s support of our Military.
  • Offer to cut grass, clean, or help with household chores.
  • Offer to run errands – doing a grocery run, picking up dry cleaning, and other errands can ease the burden of juggling responsibilities while a military member is deployed.
  • Adopt a family for the holidays. Holidays can be hard when a service member is deployed or doesn’t have family in the local area. Include military families in your holiday plans – holiday dinners, festivals, baking, etc. If you do not have a family locally Soldier Angels can help you to adopt a family.
  • Treat a service member or veteran to a holiday stocking filled with items to bring them some cheer. If you don’t have someone in your local area, Soldiers Angels Stockings For Heroes is a national organization doing this. https://soldiersangels.org/holiday-stockings-for-heroes/
  • Offer to board a military family’s pet while the family goes on vacation or takes a trip. Dogs on Deployment or PACT Military Foster Program
  • Donate to local or national military support programs or gift your airline miles to Hero Miles Program.  It supports wounded, injured, and ill service members and/or their families who are undergoing treatment at a medical facility.

We hope you and your family will consider doing something to recognize our military families this month. Also, if you have a family with kids, take them to visit a war memorial and discuss the meaning of service and sacrifice, and that this is something to remind us of the people who served in and died as a result of war. Help them understand the sacrifices of our military families to make our lives better and ensure our basic freedoms. I have been told by friends who are military families that even the “little things” can make a big difference to a military family. Please join us in celebration of National Military Families Month by adopting or supporting a military friend or support organization in 2020.

Written by Jennifer Sims and Paula Davis

Make your Voice Heard: Join the Team

Make your Voice Heard: Join the Team

group of teens posing for picture

Members from the 2020 Teen Retreat Planning Committee.

The Northwest District Teen Retreat is an event for teens that occurs every year in the Northwest District. The retreat is held at either 4-H Camp Timpoochee in Niceville or 4-H Camp Cherry Lake in Madison. This event is unique because it is planned by the teens who attend! 4-H members age 14 – 18 get to decide on all the major details of the event by attending the Teen Retreat Planning Meetings. During the Northwest District Teen Retreat, a variety of educational workshops, funshops, activities, and a community service project occur. Teens are the main voice in planning the event. The more planning meetings you attend, the more influence you have on the program planning of Teen Retreat.

 

What Happens During Planning Meetings?

 

The meetings take place via Zoom allowing you to join from home. 4-H Agents and teen members throughout the panhandle will be on the call. The meetings take place via Zoom and you will have the chance to interact with teens across the Northwest District. The call is guided by 4-H Agents, but the dialogue is led by the teens. Each person in the meeting will have an opportunity to share their ideas and input. Votes take place to decide key items such as the theme, meals, workshop topics, and more. One on of the most important decisions is the t-shirt design. Everyone has an opportunity to submit a t-shirt design and a vote is conducted during the meeting to decide on the design and design colors. Another important decision is what we will eat at meal times and what the evening activities will be. Want to plan a fun event for you and your friends? Attend the Teen Retreat Planning Meetings! Contact your county 4-H Agent If you are not a current 4-H member and you would like to join and attend the Northwest District Teen Retreat.

Why Attend?

 

When you attend the planning meetings this allows your voice to be heard on how you would like the event to run. Participating in the planning meetings will automatically put you on the Teen Retreat Planning Committee.  Participating in the planning committee meetings helps teens increase their leadership skills through their use of organizational skills, decision making, planning, and teamwork.  In addition, those who are on the committee will have various leadership opportunities they can take part in throughout the event which can include helping with registration, leading activities, and helping with event set-up, etc.

 

2020-2021 Planning Meeting Dates

 

The Teen Retreat Planning Committee needs active teens to get involved! Teens are encouraged to get involved now in the planning process to give creative input for the 2021 Teen Retreat! So, mark your calendars now and save these very important dates! Committee meetings are held via video conference and can be joined online or by phone. To sign up for this committee, please contact your local 4-H Agent for the call-in information.The meetings are held on the following evenings at 5:30 PM CT/6:30 PM ET

  • September 29, 2020
  • October 20, 2020
  • November 17, 2020
  • January 12, 2021
  • February 9, 2021

To find out more information about 4-H programs or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office.

 

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

Volunteers inspiring young minds

Every Spring during Walton County Spring Break, a local group of women collaborate with the Walton County 4-H program to deliver a special interest day camp for youth in the area.  This day camp, Stitch Perfect, was developed by the Chautauqua Quilters Guild and Jena Gilmore, the Walton County 4-H Agent.  Stitch Perfect teaches youth participants everything from hand stitching, sewing tools, and equipment, to advanced sewing techniques.

Walton County 4-H has been extremely fortunate that this three-day day camp comes with a small cost, due to the Chautauqua Quilters Guild donating all materials, machines, and volunteer power while 4-H provides no-sew projects, environmental topics, STEM, and alternative sewing activities (crochet, weaving, etc).  Due to the collaboration efforts and strong partnership with the Guild, this program has been one of the highest demanded annually!  To serve more youth, 4-H expanded the reach of this project from 10 to 20 campers by dividing the youth into beginner and advanced classes.

 

Macie’s Masterpiece Headquarters

Four years ago, Macie, a 4-H day camper, attended Stitch Perfect and fell in love with the art of sewing and quilting.  The following year, she was so excited to attend Stitch Perfect and show off what she had been working on, however, her family planned a trip to Disney.  Macie was distraught and actually shared with her mother she would’ve rather attended Stitch Perfect!  While Macie still enjoyed her time at Disney, she has been able to attend Stitch Perfect in following years to gain skills in cross stitching, weaving, and advanced sewing.

 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of preventative equipment, Macie felt inspired to take action by utilizing the sewing skills she has learned over the years at 4-H Stitch Perfect with the Chautauqua Quilters Guild!  She created her own work space in her bedroom, determined her pattern, secured her supplies and tools and went to work creating beautiful masterpieces in the form of surgical masks, to share with her community.  Macie’s inspiration sparked after her mother, a postal worker, expressed the need and lack of supplies such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks for postal workers.  After all, they are on the front lines dealing with COVID-19 as they directly handle thousands of pieces of mail daily that have been handled tens of thousands of times prior to being delivered to their facility for sorting and delivery!

 

A display of finished sewing project-face masks

Macie’s Masterpieces

Macie is an outstanding example of just how impactful 4-H is on the lives of the youth that participate in 4-H programming.  Like so many other programs available, 4-H Stitch Perfect helped Macie to develop and master essential life skills such as critical thinking, decision making, concern for self and others, etc. With over 70 different 4-H project areas from sewing, gardening, animal science, to computer science and rocketry, there are plenty of topics to work with youth to develop their life skills and make a meaningful impact like the Chautauqua Quilters Guild did on Macie with the 4-H Stitch Perfect program.  If you would like to get involved in your local 4-H program as a volunteer, please visit http://florida4h.org to apply online or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations, open to all youth, ages 5-18, and available in every community. For more information on how youth can join or the many 4-H projects available, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org today.