Monday, September 28, 2009

Service Learning in Social Studies

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 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.


  1. This is really neat. I'm wondering what grade levels it might be appropriate for. With 7th grade civics looming on the horizon, I'm thinking it might be a great way for students to apply knowledge or even to use as an assessment. I wonder if middle schoolers would have relevant, respectful things to discuss, or if parents might get fussy? I feel like it would work for high school but they might have already passed the content classes on this.

  2. I like this idea as well but it would need to be an extended project probably, unless another teacher who has previously done it could advise you. Its difficult for many adults to even understand the naturalization process. I really like how the students might put the lesson in other languages.

  3. I actually love this idea. As you mentioned immigration is currently a "hot" topic in our society. With all the mixed feelings I'm sure this project will be met with varying opinions and in some cases maybe even animosity. However, I feel that what students will gain from this means so much more than those opinions. We must face the fact that a lot of our students may be immigrants themselves and we can help other students relate to this by showing them what these students must go through in order to be considered a citizen in our country. I also think this gives students a feeling of empowerment and self-worth because they are helping another human being to achieve their dream. They even get a glimpse at what we have to go through in order to prepare effective lessons.

  4. This is such a great idea. Kids need to know the human and personal side of controversial issues and this project really captures that. By creating these education materials they will be benefitting people tremendously. The process itself is one of the most challenging steps towards becoming a citizen. By helping new Americans navigate the process everyone’s life is made easier.