The Action Project is a student-led service learning project that provides students with the opportunity to address watershed health issues that affect their community at the school, neighborhood, or city level. Integrating service into curriculum is an opportunity for students to connect with key watershed concepts and topics through on-the-ground work.
Teachers work with students to brainstorm a hands-on project that addresses a watershed health issue of interest. By empowering students to work together to creatively solve problems through the service learning framework, we are supporting students in becoming the next generation of stewards and advocates for our lands and waters.
Definition of Project Based Learning
“Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.”Buck Institute for Education, Project Based Learning Works
Definition of Service Learning
“Service learning is a teaching method that engages students in service activities that are integrated into an academic curriculum. Students use academic skills they are learning in the classroom to conduct service projects, to meet actual community needs. Providing students with real-world applications for their academic skills allows them to recognize the value of what they are learning and increase their retention levels.”New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Bosque Education Guide
The Action Project Framework
Identify a Problem
Begin by identifying a local watershed health problem that affects your community and the local environment. Identify a solution and narrow your scope by asking – “What can we do on our campus to help solve this problem? Work together as a team to creatively brainstorm potential solutions based on team strengths and weaknesses and community need!
- What concerns do you have about water in your community?
- Based on what you’ve learned, what are some ways you could make a difference?
- What is something you wish your community knew more about?
- What do you have the power to change?
Develop a Plan
Conduct research to identify what you need to know in order to effectively take action and where you find that information? Reach out to school community members (students, maintenance staff, principles) through surveys and interviews. Explore and read relevant literature and news articles. Try reaching out to a local agency or organization that specializes in the problem and/or solution of interest! Interviews, surveys, media, or even observation are all effective forms of research to identify the exact action needed in your school community!
Once you’ve identified the action, now it’s time to design the project! When and where would you like to complete the project, what materials do you need to gather, and who would you like to partner with in order to have a successful action project? Define roles and responsibilities for the teacher, students, and involved community partners.
- How long will this project take?
- Who would we like to reach out to and involve?
- Is there anyone that we should include in this project that we haven’t thought of yet?
- What do we need to learn in order to take effective action?
Once you have everything you need, gather your team and get to work! Taking action could involve a one day event or a month of designing and constructing models, posters, or other education materials- it all depends on the chosen project. Most importantly be sure to document this stage with photos and audio/video recordings! Collect data to track outreach and/or event attendance ( for example, # of students, teachers, and staff reached by the project). Documentation and data collection will provide important information for reflection later on!
- Do we have everything we need?
- Is everyone present who needs to be?
- What questions or concerns do you have before we get started?
- How would we like to document our work?
Reflection can be used between every stage of the action project and is especially encouraged after the Take Action stage. Students are encouraged to “process” their experiences by considering and responding to a series of reflection questions through discussion, journaling, art etc.
- Did you accomplish your goals and objectives? What was the most successful part of your project? What was the least successful part of your project?
- Who was influenced or motivated by your actions?
- If you repeated the project, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Gather with your community to celebrate all the hard work and share what you’ve learned through demonstrations, presentations, art, music, etc.!
- How would you like to share what you learned?
- What are you most proud of?
- How do you like to celebrate your accomplishments?
- Who do you want to celebrate with?
Suggested Components of the Action Project:
- Get’s student outside the classroom
- High Impact- Involves collaboration with other teachers, students, or agencies/organizations
May fit into one of two categories:
On The Ground
- Campus cleanup
- Creating a school wildlife or rain garden
- Seed-ball making and distribution
- Water quality assessments
- Stormwater mapping to design a “Green School” model
Outreach and Education
- Recycling campaigns
- Letter-writing to school board, government bodies etc
- Hanging posters in school to share educate others
- Plays and music to perform in front of other teachers, students, family members
- Making art that reflects important issues
Action Project Example: Keeping our River Clean!