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Unschoolers Volunteering Service to the Community

Volunteering Service to the Community
By Annee von Borg

Our family has always valued active citizenship, so when we discovered Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots service-learning program, it was a natural fit for us; our five children have been participating since birth and seven years old. In the beginning, our activities were parent initiated, but within a few years of consistent learning and volunteering to care for the environment, animals, and community, the older siblings started taking the lead with project efforts, such as a lemonade stand fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims and a baby shower for a homeless single mother, eventually initiating and implementing more complex projects in their entirety.

While service was always the main goal of these activities, learning has always been a guaranteed outcome. Food donation projects are not only filled with mathematical equations, but also can involve lessons about ecology, cooking, and creative cooperation. Life science as a textbook-based school subject could never measure up to the adventures of invasive species removal projects.

With our fabulous five now ages twelve to eighteen, current projects include H2Origami, combining love of arts and nature into action for a cause, and a park adoption/rehabilitation, which is entirely youth organized and led, including recruitment, training, and supervision of additional volunteers, and documentation of progress through photography and blogging. One teen also serves as a member of the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council. Having benefitted from education through service, young family members have sought out additional experiential learning through service as library volunteers and an environmental education intern, resulting in the employment of one and probable future hiring of another, as well as in the fields of theater, film production, bicycle repair, and canine care. Several family members have participated in local politics as members of committees or advisory boards.

All in all, our kids’ experience growing up with service-learning has contributed to the development of young adults who are critical thinkers, avid knowledge seekers, self-directed learners, outspoken activists, and compassionate human beings, who also know how to acquire real-life knowledge, skills, and experience while benefitting the environment, animals, and community through service.

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