Kids Taking Action
(Greenfield, MA : Northeast Foundation for Children, 2002)
PND Off the Shelf - Kids Taking Action
Kids Taking Action is an enjoyable and practical introduction to
Community Service Learning (CSL) for parents, teachers, and interested
humanitarians. But just what is CSL?
Broadly speaking, CSL refers to the social and intellectual education that volunteers
gain while performing community service. In Kids Taking Action, author
Pamela Roberts walks the reader through the logistics and the magic behind CSL
projects at the K-8 level in several schools in Massachusetts.
Sommerfeld, Meg. "More Than Half of
Youths Plan to Volunteer." Chronicle of Philanthropy, September
20, 2001, p. 46.
Clotfelter, Charles T. (ed.). Amateurs in
Public Service: Volunteering, Service-Learning, and Community Service.
Durham, NC: Duke University School of Law, 1999.
Gibson, Cynthia. From Inspiration to
Participation: A Review of Perspectives on Youth Civic Engagement.
Berkeley, CA: Grantmaker Forum on Community and National Service, 2001.
For example, in a chapter called "Biographies of Nursing Home
Residents," Roberts describes how a project in which seventh-graders
interviewed elderly residents at a senior home was transformed into a learning
experience. Through the project, the kids got a first-hand education about the
elderly in America and developed their writing, public speaking, and social
skills by interacting with the seniors and composing biographies of them.
In another fascinating example, Roberts describes how fifth-graders decided
to take action against bias in literature by creating a pamphlet entitled
"6 Quick Ways for Kids to Analyze Kids' Books for Bias." The fifth-graders
first read pamphlets on this subject for adults and then rewrote the guidelines
in child-friendly language, making a brochure more accessible to children and
youth. Wow, parents and teachers beware! These and other examples of kids
taking charge of their own education might leave you breathless.
Because some projects in the book span several months or years, patience,
structure, and followup are key to the successful incorporation of CSL projects
into a school's curriculum. Elementary schoolteachers on a short timeline may want
to consider, among others, the "Books on Tape" project, in which
fifth-graders recorded books for first-graders, refining their own reading and
speaking skills in the process.
Meant as a primer, Kids Taking Action doesn't go into much detail
about how to secure funding for these school projects; moreover, Roberts
addresses only generally how to select, administer, and evaluate CSL programs.
Most of the projects tend to focus on developing liberal arts skills, and a few
more emphasizing the development of math and science skills through CSL would
have rounded out the book. There are a few, however, and science teachers can
look for ideas in the descriptions of the "Salmon Restoration" and
"Wetlands as Classroom and Service Opportunity" projects.
In terms of layout, the book is a short, quick read. It contains chapters
describing five projects in depth, followed by briefer chapters that depict
thirteen more projects. For its scope, Kids Taking Action is an
impressive book written by a parent and experienced journalist who became interested
in the subject when her daughter got involved in a CSL project at school. Roberts's
accessible and intelligent writing style draws the reader into the exciting
world of CSL and settles any doubts about integrating CSL into school curricula
across the country.
For citations to other materials on this topic, please refer to the Literature of the Nonprofit
Sector Online, using the subject heading "Community service" or