Helping Students to help themselves and others

Teachers are often pushed for ideas. Although they have past experience to go by, what is amazing is that given the right incentive and opportunity, students also have ideas which are refreshingly possible. The teacher needs to learn to bring out these ideas, and there are very simple ways to develop ideas within the classroom which can be used within the community to benefit the people of that community. Whether in a rich or poor area, there are always things which those living within the community can see as needing change. Student ideas can be very valuable indeed though to trigger these, the teacher needs to approach the idea in a subtle way that makes the student feel they are contributing to the community in which they live.

Gathering ideas

A talk with the students about the world they live in helps. From these discussions, teachers can discern several things which include:

~What bad things exist in each student’s community
~What facilities exist for elderly people within the student’s community
~What there is for kids within that community
~What areas of waste exist within that community

These are all viable topics. In a poor community, perhaps there are no playground facilities for young people. Perhaps parks and gardens have been neglected and are in need of a community project to put them back into order. Gleaning information is important and although a teacher may hint at the kind of ideas, it’s important that the children come up with their own ideas, as this gives them much more incentive to carry out those ideas and take the recognition for having come up with them.

Local amenities

The children can make a map of the particular community and put down all the things that they know to be available. Then, the class can discuss from this basic map, which can be blackboard based, what elements would be good to include. These may be small projects, but from seeds, trees grow and it is these basic ideas that help children to come up with ideas.

How those local amenities affect family members

This is another important aspect to look at. Ask the students how the area affects their family members. Perhaps the elderly don’t go out much because of physical difficulties. Perhaps they find it hard to climb steps or don’t feel safe. If there is an element where elderly people are deprived of liberty because of their community backdrop, perhaps the teacher can suggest that the community project may be based on elderly need and could be as simple as providing a service to the elderly that they don’t already have. Things that spring to mind are taking pets out for walks where elderly people are unable to do this, or simply visiting those people who are alone, though this should be a joint visit where teachers and children are involved and where no safety issues are involved.

Parks and gardens

Here, the children could come up with ideas about how these could be improved. It may be that a wildlife garden area could be worthwhile exploring, or a place within the park where people could feed the birds. In inner city environments, perhaps students may feel that people are deprived of the possibility of seeing birds or experiencing natural elements and these could be involved in a project. The best way to find out is to talk to the students and make vague suggestions, letting them come up with the actual ideas. In parks and gardens, litter may be a particular problem and the community project could involve litter awareness and the cleaning up of the park area.

Perhaps there is a particular problem with pets fouling within the park areas that exist. An awareness campaign could be a good project idea, though the student should come up with ideas about how to put this in practice. It is good for the student and the dialog which ensues after an initial idea is suggested is very useful for the student’s logical thinking and evaluation process, helping them to see all sides of the problem at hand, rather than seeing the project in black and white.

There are thousands of different possibilities, though the teacher should explain to the students what the community is, and what the responsibility of community members comprises. Then go on to relate how that works in the community in which the student lives, and how students could come up with ideas to make that environment a better place for people to live which would make viable projects. Rather than squashing ideas which are not viable, the teacher should encourage the students to make them viable. For example, if a child suggested something which involved unsafe or potentially dangerous activity where someone could get hurt, they should be asked to expand upon those ideas bearing in mind all safety aspects. Gradually, they learn to see the bigger picture and to come up with a unique perspective, but this can only be based on common sense when the teacher sets out the common sense parameters for such a project.