GLOBE Side Navigation

Students Lend Helping Hands through Service-Learning

On 11 September 2009, the American people will observe their first annual National Day of Service and Remembrance. Through formal legislation passed in April of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized federal support for many innovative national service programs. On the National Day of Service and Remembrance, people everywhere are encouraged to engage in personal and organized service activities and reflection as a tribute to the memory of those who perished on 9-11 and to the many who rose in service in the days and months afterward.

* * *

world in hands

There are limitless ways to engage in community service and one opportunity, especially for students, is through service-learning.

What is service-learning? It is a method of teaching, learning and reflecting that combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service, frequently youth service, throughout the community. As a teaching methodology, it falls under the philosophy of experiential education. More specifically, it integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, encourage lifelong civic engagement, and strengthen communities for the common good.

Service-learning is actually a discipline in many U.S. schools as well as internationally. In the U.S., the National Youth Leadership Council works to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and their communities through service-learning.

If you would like to develop a service-learning project in your school or community, take some ideas from the list below. See how GLOBE students around the world have been involved in benefitting their communities and themselves.

Volunteer water monitoring. Use water-monitoring equipment to study the health of their local waterways (See the GLOBE Teacher's Guide for the list of protocols). GLOBE students have been implementing community based water-monitoring projects in India, Nepal, New Zealand and many other places.

GLOBE parents teach their children the value of community projects
GLOBE parents teach their children
the value of community projects

Organize an activity to collect litter and remove invasive species of plants that crowd out native species, change the habitats for fish, invertebrates and birds, and restrict access for humans. GLOBE students in Arizona USA have used land cover/biology studies to help local land-developers in fast growing areas determine non-intrusive traffic and pedestrian paths.

Build a weather station to benefit the community. GLOBE students in Pennsylvania USA enhanced their own study of weather with a digital weather station which made it possible for them to become part of the Homeland Security Weather Network, and interact with meteorologists in the Washington D.C. area. They also provide their local newspaper with weather-related data. Boy Scouts in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA built weather stations to donate to local GLOBE schools.

Plant a tree. GLOBE students in many regions have already become active tree planters. (See GLOBE stars on projects in Niger, Finland, Bangladesh, and India, to name a few). Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) during photosynthesis and are important carbon sinks. In fact, it's estimated that the world's forests store 50 percent more carbon (stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter and soil) than the carbon in the atmosphere.

Volunteers with Replant New Orleans plant trees in city devastated by floods


Earth Day- Everyday! Clean up an area in your community that needs some tending and care. Consider cemeteries, parks, and vacant lots, a river or a beachfront. SCUBAnauts and Ocean for Life students spent a day doing beach clean-up projects, in conjunction with their GLOBE research activities, after an informative discussion about Marine debris and plastics.

Promote the use of cloth grocery bags. Plastic bags may seem more convenient than cloth ones, but when you learn the facts about plastic bags you won't want to use them!

facts on disposable bags

Work to ban the use of plastic bags in your community. The city of San Francisco banned the use of plastic bags in 2007 and a year later, New Delhi also. China put a NATIONWIDE ban on plastic bags last year. GLOBE students in Bahrain have distributed cloth bags to community members. You can help too!

The World Wide Web is full of sites that will help you find additional service project ideas. helps you think about other ways you can contribute to your community. On this Web site, you will find toolkits to develop projects in education, health, energy and the environment, and community renewal.

Start a waste reduction program in your school or expand an existing one. The Environmental Protection Agency has created a waste-reduction guide that will show you how your actions can benefit your school, your community, and the environment by reducing, reusing and recycling your waste.

Conduct energy audits of homes and fill leaks and cracks in homes to save energy. Every year, more than $13 billion worth of energy leaks from houses through small holes and cracks. See the guide for reducing the carbon footprint of your home.

Commit to reducing carbon emissions by a specific amount. Set goals. is a great student Web site for getting ideas for additional service projects.

Service-learning means giving back to the people and culture around you and supporting your community on a local level. It is a crucial part of the human experience that helps create a fulfilling and meaningful life. As the great British statesman Winston Churchill once said, "You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give."

photo credits:
GLOBE front page: from the 
facts on disposable bags: from disposable bag campaign

29 August 2009