When searching for a social studies related service learning plan, I found a lot that seemed really interesting and like they would be fun to do with a class. The Citizenship Test Project on servicelearning.org really piqued my interest, however.
The site's description of it is:
While studying immigration to the United States in the 1990s, students will learn about the naturalization process and prepare lessons to be given to adult school citizenship classes. These lessons will help prepare the adult school students for their citizenship test. The lessons will include handouts in English, Spanish and other languages that might be relevant. Students will also present the lessons in several languages to meet the needs of the adult students.
This service learning project reflects some of the benefits of inquiry learning in social studies, such as allowing students to connect lessons to daily life, fostering "team spirit" as all the students are working towards one goal, and stimulating students curiosity and motivation. As immigration is a controversial issue in many communities, this particular service learning project will also allow students to sharpen their critical thinking skills in general and make them more aware of this controversial issue in particular.
The Citizenship Test Project also puts into effect the "learning cycle" method. Before beginning the project, students must first have a working understanding of the information necessary to pass the U.S. naturalization exam, such as basic U.S. History and Civics. They would have to also go through the specific questions on the naturalization exam, discuss and decide what is most likely to come up, and decide how to present the information in order for others to learn from their handouts.
This plan also reflects some of the best practices found throughout inquiry learning: using topics relevant to students (again, as immigration is a "hot" issue at the moment, cities are growing all over the country due to immigration, and many students are immigrants themselves or have been in the United States for just a few generations), using collaboration between students, and students learn various lessons through hands-on experience in producing these study guides.
Surely challenges may arise when creating the Citizenship Test Project, such as depending a lot on students and requiring a lot of participation from them. The teacher overseeing this project must absolutely be there every step of the way, acting as a guide by providing examples for each step and making sure things stay organized.
Reading through the assignment, I thought it was great that the students would be creating handouts for adult students preparing for the citizenship test. I thought it could be taken a step further, though, and benefit more people taking the U.S. citizenship exam if the class put their handouts up on a website. Another idea I had was providing some tutoring from students for the adults about to take the citizenship exam, or having a group of adults come in and having the students teach them lessons they have prepared.