How Community Service Shapes Student's Thinking

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Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian activist, once said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. It is difficult to deny the truth of his message. If you want to see a positive impact on the world around you, you must be the positive impact. The world around us if filled with opportunities to help others. This cannot be truer in the sense that every student from kindergarten to year 12 must take part in community service. Community service not only allows students to develop an increased sense of social responsibility, get more in touch with their community’s issues and to gain unique insight to the workings of their community, but it also allows students to practice academic content in solutions outside of the classroom to develop critical thinking skills while solving real world problems.

Community service allows students to develop an increased sense of social responsibility, that is, by doing community service students will feel more indebted to the people around them and will try harder to be a better person. This is true as working together with others will expose teens to a community that is dedicated to helping others, a community with a sense of responsibility to society. It has been proven by Colin Ellard, a neuroscientist investigating how place can affect the mind. He believes, “everybody knows that where you are influences what you do and how you feel. Humans are predictable in public spaces, and reap tremendous benefits from exposure to nature.” This shows that experts of the human mind believe that having an active community can change the way people think. The Huffington post also seems to agree with this statement as they claim “volunteer activity often reshapes or redirects people’s values, perspectives and even their life goals in several ways. It can spur new growth and awareness, both spiritually and emotionally. Sometimes the changes are slight, but clear”. From this, the obvious benefits of community service should be clear, it not only exposes teens to multiculturalism and acceptance but also teaches them teamwork skills in the process. This would help them develop social responsibility but also gain a greater view of society.

Community service also allows students to see their community’s issues first hand and gain unique insight to the workings of their community. This can be easily seen by any community service project. Whether it’s cleaning up a flooded river bank, giving aid to the less advantaged or any of the other 1247 job opportunities currently available/looking for volunteers in the Brisbane area. A student partaking in any one of these activities would be able to see the processes behind how their community’s actions and how the decisions they made affected the world around them. An example of this is when yearly, rivers and creeks break their banks. Immediately after the event, it is almost always possible to see both adults and teens scurrying around to fix the damage. Be it repairs or cleanup communities flock to fix and clean up their area. From this cleanup process a student can learn how their community works. For example, if you only spend time going to school, playing sports, and doing homework, you will probably not spend a lot of time thinking about the problems that people face on the street. However, if you work at a homeless shelter, you can see through the stereotypes about why people are homeless while learning about the unique challenges that homeless people face in getting off the streets. From these facts, it is clear that community service helps students to learn about their community’s workings and issues.

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Finally, community service allows students to practice academic thinking and apply academic content outside of the classroom. Not only that, but community service also allows students to develop critical thinking skills while solving real world problems. While learning is great, it loses its value if you cannot apply this learning to realistic situations. By doing community service you have an opportunity to make learning relevant by practicing outside of an exam preparation context. Community service also allows you to remotivate yourself as it will allow you to take learning outside of the classroom and see how it will affect the real world. Stem.org UK writes “learning outside the classroom can have a range of benefits. Even working away from the confines of your classroom offers a great opportunity for fresh air and exercise. While learning beyond the classroom may mean that the behavior of some children may waver, on the whole it can often mean a general improvement in behavior as they will be more motivated” This quote shows how beneficial outside learning can be. Another example of how outside learning can be beneficial is when a 2006 academic paper pointed to a study of students in California as evidence that outdoor education can improve grades. Students from eleven schools did better than traditional forms of education in 72% of assessments on everything from math to attendance. The same year, Dennis Eaton published in his book “Cognitive and Affective Learning in Outdoor Education” he discovered that students’ mental capabilities are better developed outside the classroom than in. From this information, it is clear that community service helps both academically and socially.

Despite all this, some people still believe that community service would be a bad idea. Teenagers are busy. They can become overwhelmed by jobs, sport and personal obligations. Teens cannot be left to themselves as they aren’t mature enough and volunteer coordinators may push teens too hard. However, these concerns are easily managed. It is paramount that community service is slotted in as an extra instead of a getting in the way of school work, study or sleep. It is also of the upmost importance that an experienced coordinator helps younger members of a community service group, during this time the coordinator will get to know the people they are working with and will fit them in, after all, it’s in their best interests to have a happy, motivated team.

In conclusion, all students need to commit to their community by doing community service as it allows students to develop an increased sense of social responsibility, get more in touch with their community’s issues, gain unique insight to the workings of their community, practice academic content outside of the classroom and develop critical thinking skills while solving real world problems. This change would benefit not only those who made it, but also the wider world around them. After all, community service is just that, service to the community.

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