Category Archives: Service Learning

Learning Sign Language {3 great resources}

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by Diane Burdick, Ed.S.

I’ve been interested in sign language since as early as I can remember. As a highschooler I was in the sign language club, and the college I attended held free sign language classes every week, where I learned both basic and more advanced sign language words and concepts.

Although I took the classes more than 10 years ago, I still use my sign language skills at church and in my community. If you’re interested in learning sign language, pursue it! You’ll probably be surprised by how many opportunities you’ll find to use this ability once you have it.

Here are three great resources for learning and mastering sign language:

1. SigningFamilies.com

SigningFamilies.com offers lessons (for a small fee), as well as free video tutorials on YouTube. While the material is mostly geared toward children, adults can also benefit. DVD topics include teaching babies, toddlers and preschoolers sign language, as well as teaching sign language for emergency situations. Online classes include ASL (American Sign Language) basics, classes for kids, and adaptive sign language for people with special needs.

2. LifePrint.com

American Sign Language University on LifePrint.com teaches basic techniques like letters, common words and fingerspelling, as well as the importance of using body language and facial expressions when communicating with the hard-of-hearing. Bill Vicars, the facilitator of the course, also gives guidance on how to learn ASL even if you don’t interact much with the deaf community.

3. ASLPro.com

ASLPro.com offers free information for sign language teachers, and is specifically geared to be a classroom resource. Contents of the site include a main dictionary, a religious dictionary, conversational dictionary, as well as ways to teach ASL to babies.

These resources are a great starting point for learning sign language. I’d also encourage you to check with your local community center or church for class availability. Learning sign language is a lifelong skill you’ll always treasure.

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Filed under Academic Success, Service Learning, special needs

Learning to Give: A Hands-On Way to Teach Generosity

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

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Don’t you just love this time of year? Cider brewing on the stove’s back burner, pies bubbling in the oven, stores festooned with twinkle lights, the Salvation Army volunteer merrily ringing at the store’s front door…it’s all just so cheery. And it’s also the perfect time of year–as we all know–to teach children about the blessing of giving to others. Here is a hands-on way to do just that, as gleaned from Primrose Schools, whose award-winning character education curriculum is all about encouraging little ones to help others.

Beyond the Canned Food Drive

Stashing some cans in the bin at the gym is all well and good. It meets a need. It fills a soup kitchen. It’s a good thing to do. But–what if you took a different approach and got your children (and yourself) more directly involved in giving?

To really drive home the impact of giving to others, Primrose Schools nationwide encourage their private pre-k and kindergarten students to earn money through doing chores at home throughout the month of November, during their Caring and Giving event. The money is brought in to school each day, counted, charted and saved for a class-wide field trip to a local grocery store. There, the children use their own hard-earned stash of cash to select nonperishables off the shelves themselves, which are then loaded into the schools’ buses and taken to local community food banks.

What an ingenious way to make giving relevant to children! And, how easy to adapt with children at home, as well. Here’s how:

Set it up. 

First, designate a special spot in your home to save the money that’s just for giving. A mason jar labeled “Giving” and decorated with a cute ribbon (or decorated by your child) will do nicely. Put the jar in an important place, like on the kitchen counter or your child’s bedside table. Here’s a cute pre-made jar set from Lil Light O’ Mine, pictured right, that could be used year-round: www.lillightomine.com/shop.

Earn it.

Then, brainstorm ideas with your child on how he or she could earn money to fill their jar. Explain that the money won’t be for them this time; it will be used to help families and children who don’t have as much food or as many nice toys as your child has.

Ideas might include unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, picking up toys, clearing the table after dinner, setting the table for dinner, helping cook, raking leaves, taking out the trash, dusting their room, feeding the pets, making your bed or a sibling’s bed as a good deed…and whatever other helpful ideas your child mentions. List the ideas, and then post the list so your child can refer to it if they get “stuck” and need a prod or two.

Set parameters. 

Designate an amount of time (like two weeks), and an amount of money a chore will earn (like $0.25 or $1). You may also want to point out to your child that they won’t get paid for doing the things they’re already expected to do, like brushing their teeth or being nice to their siblings. Together, set parameters for earning that make sense for your family.

Then, sit down together and count the money your child has earned regularly. Not only will this reinforce math skills, but it will also build excitement and a positive sense of pride in your child at the good they’re going to do.

Spend It.

At the end of the set time period, take your child to the store and help them select nonperishable food items with their money. Talk about what they’d like to eat at Christmas or Thanksgiving, and help them make their choices. But, don’t control their choices. As an adult, you may want specific items to be purchased, but let your child do a little leading, as well. Teach them the joy of giving by making the process fun! When I did this with my 4-year-old son, for example, he insisted on adding in a couple cans of Sponge Bob chicken noodle soup. More power to him!

Donate It.

Then, either have your child put the goods in a collection box at the front of the store (if there is one), or find a shelter or food bank in your community and donate the goods there, with your child in tow. If you’re not sure where one is, do a quick Internet search. Key words to try: “food bank + (your city)” or “canned food drive + (your city).”

Some nonprofit resources for the Atlanta area: 

Hope for Christmas: collects new gifts, toys and nonperishable food. Volunteers also needed.

Atlanta Community Food Bank

MUST Ministries

It’s important for children to see the whole process– from earning, to saving, to spending, to giving. Thanks for the inspiration, Primrose Schools! We agree that thankfulness is best learned through giving, and giving is most enjoyed when experienced hands-on, from the heart. 

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Extracurricular, Field Trips, Holidays, Service Learning

Simple Service Projects for Kids

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by Kelli Lewis

Do you incorporate service learning in your classroom? It’s simple to do and the best part is that it keeps your students engaged and learning hands-on! Think of the standards and curriculum you must cover, then consider the things around our own community that you could use to relate to the standards and/or curriculum in order to make a difference there.

A Simple Service Learning Idea

Here is one idea, concerning healthy eating habits in children today. We saw a need in our own community due to obesity among elementary children and unhealthy food habits. Students are not always aware of exercise possibilities, healthy snacks, and the benefits of being healthy. Our plan was to get information out there and teach the students what it means to be healthy, what a difference it could make in their lives, and to allow them to become a positive role model for someone else they know.

Here are some activities you could use in your classroom, if you chose to participate it something like this:

Comparing fast food menus:

Students make a list of their top three favorite fast food places. Teachers (and/or students, depending on the grade levels) look up the nutritional information for these places, and compare them to each others’ favorite places. Each student should then be able to list their favorite places in order of which restaurant is the most healthy, as well as explore the different menu items they could order to make healthier decisions (ie. choosing apple slices instead of fries.)

Workout video:

Students learn and/or choreograph a workout routine to a self-selected song. Students can suggest songs as a class, then vote for the one they would like to use for their routine. The most popular vote wins. After learning the steps to the selected song, students could have the option of creating a workout video of them teaching and performing the routine!

Writing letters:

Students write letters to the school about getting a healthy food grant. They could also even write letters to Jamie Oliver (from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution TV show) about the possibility of him coming to their school.

Cookbook:

Students create a cookbook of recipes they have learned about and/or come up with themselves, that are healthy snacks or small meals they could easily create themselves. They can use these to refer back to when they are at home and need an idea of something healthy they can eat other than potato chips or candy. They can also use these to give to friends or family in order to spread the word.

Paper grocery bags:

Students write things they have learned about healthy eating on grocery bags that you have gathered from your community grocery store. Then, take the bags back to the store and ask if they will use these bags for customers. This way, students are getting the word out to the public in their community about the importance of healthy habits, and it gives them a chance to make a difference outside of the school building.

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

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Filed under Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, Motivation, Service Learning, Writing