Middle schoolers are at a young and impressionable age, and their experiences both in and out of school will eventually shape them into the adults they become. As such, it is important to provide them with opportunities that enable them to grow and reach their full potential, so that they can become engaged citizens in their community.
Read to Lead makes a point of showing students the value of serving their communities. Through hands-on, project-based lesson plans, the program empowers students to see that they too can make a difference in their communities and that they are not too young nor too ineffectual to have an impact on their actions.
Community service goes well beyond benefiting the recipients of the service. A survey of 1,200 teenagers conducted by Prudential Financial’s Spirit of Community Initiative revealed that 90% of respondents who volunteered said that service makes them feel good about themselves. The study also revealed that volunteering produced personal benefits to the teens in the form of a positive self-image, optimism and confidence.
So how can we help middle schoolers learn how to serve their communities?
Adult Encouragement and Support
Middle schoolers are still at an age where they are open and receptive to suggestions from adults about how best to spend their time and what activities to engage in. Adult encouragement can go a long way in inspiring middle school students to serve their communities.
Educators, in particular, are uniquely placed to introduce the concept of service to the community and communicate its importance to students. Apart from approaching this from a merely rhetorical perspective, educators can give their students a taste of what it is like to serve the community by introducing programs such as Read to Lead®️ into their classroom or encourage them to plan and execute their own projects to serve their communities.
Set in the fictional town of Port Douglas, the Read to Lead®️ game Community In Crisis places middle school students in the context of a small town during a moment of tribulation. Students take on the role of an important and influential community member who has the power to make decisions that have an impact on others around them. As they move through the episodes, they interact with other characters and learn more about how their contributions can bring about change within the community.
Playing these games gives students a sense of community, and allows them to see how they fit in. Students can draw parallels between Port Douglas and their own communities, and the more they see that their efforts make a difference within the game platform, the more they would be inspired to start thinking of how they can bring about change in their own communities.
Community Action Projects
Each Read to Lead® game culminates in a community action project. Students are encouraged to think about the problems they see in the world, reflect on how they can take action to change things, and put their ideas into practice in their communities.
After nine months of using the Read to Lead®️ platform, 17 middle school students from The Legacy Center put together a plan to serve their community by providing healthy snacks and poems of encouragement and support to those experiencing homelessness. This project empowered the students to see themselves in a position of being able to enact change in their communities, and the tangible results of their efforts will surely inspire them to continue on this path of service-learning.
Helping middle schoolers learn how to serve their communities does not have to be a challenge. With adequate support and encouragement, the right tools, and giving them a chance to put their ideas into action, we can motivate middle schoolers to serve their communities.