Home Living Extension Update from Megan Burda: Civic Engagement

Extension Update from Megan Burda: Civic Engagement

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Megan Burda – York/Polk Extension Educator

Civic Engagement: Connecting Youth to Their Community

Last week, York County high school students participated in County Government Day. Students were invited to tour the courthouse to learn more about local government and how the county offices function. We had the opportunity to share the Extension story with four groups. Participating in this event made me think about civic engagement and what that means for young people.

Civic engagement involves youth learning about positive character traits, knowledge of the government, issues, public policy, and community service learning. There are three main components to a service learning project: youth involvement; meaningful service; and reflection. Youth learn valuable skills as they plan, organize, and implement the project. They may see a need in a community that has not been addressed before. Adults also play a critical role in helping youth prioritize the community needs. A key component of service learning is reflection which occurs before, during, and following the project. Youth are given the opportunity to reflect on the experience and discuss the “What”, “So What”, and “Now What”. In this process, they make the connections between completing the service project and how it will influence lifelong learning. 

Here are the six steps to implement a service learning project:

  1. Investigation: Use critical thinking to identify and analyze community needs and assets and student interests, skills and talents. 
  2. Preparation: Get ready to take action through service by gaining knowledge and skills aligned with academic objectives. Collaborate with community partners to create a service plan that addresses identified community need(s).
  3. Action: Engage in meaningful and creative service that enhances learning and provides guided practice in social responsibility. 
  4. Reflection: Communicate feelings, experiences and learnings before, during and after the action phase.
  5. Demonstration: Showcase the service-learning experience, demonstrating insights and outcomes to the community.
  6. Evaluation: Assess student learning and the service-learning experience as a whole to identify successes and areas for improvement.

Learning about citizenship and leadership happens all the time within 4-H activities.  Youth might serve as an officer of a club to learn about parliamentary procedure, join a committee to plan out an event for the club, or be a part of the service learning project.  For more information about the 4-H and Youth Development, please contact the Nebraska Extension Office in York County, visit our website at http://york.unl.edu.

Source: http://www.generationon.org

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