Student Task

Be the Change...

Do Something
Grade Level


Students identify and investigate a community problem and propose a solution. They then plan and implement action directed at solving the problem.

Estimated time

Three to four weeks


Service learning allows students to identify a problem within their community and apply academic, social and personal skills to garner real results. When students are empowered to think about their communities through a social justice lens, they may spot areas of need that they hadn’t before considered. Service learning promotes positive group interactions, problem-solving skills and conflict resolution and encourages students to consider their roles in society. Connecting service learning to a theme or issue, like those found in Perspectives central texts, is shown to have a larger impact on youth than service learning conducted in isolation or when context is not provided.


Get Ready

  1. Prepare a list of local agencies or school clubs that could serve as partners in this task. Do service-learning projects already exist in your school or community that students could join?
  2. Do some groundwork before involving students. Identify available resources. Consider transportation needs, chaperones and permission you will need from parents to leave school grounds.  Make sure you get all necessary authorizations from your administrator.
  3. Read about how service learning can challenge prejudices about people or groups in need:
  4. Research service learning planning tools and choose a project that best meets the needs of your class.

Get Set

  1. Provide students with information about supplies, work schedules and due dates. Use the rubric to define expectations and project components and to clarify how you will assess student work.
  2. Decide ahead of time how many hours/days out of class you and your students are realistically able to put toward this task. Let students know this time constraint from the start. For instance, you may say:
    • “For our next field trip we will ‘Be the Change.’ We will plan a day of service and community action. We will spend four hours that day making a difference in our community.”
    • “Our Do Something project is called ‘Be the Change.’ Over the course of this semester, I expect you to contribute a total of 10 hours of your time making a difference in the community.”
  3. Lead a discussion that applies themes from the central text(s) to real-world contexts. What connections can be made between the text and issues in your local community? Guide the discussion to help students identify current problems, issues or areas of need.
  4. Once issues have been identified, define “community partners.” Help students realize that partners may be the people they are working to help, or organizations already facilitating work in this area. Using the word “partner” helps prevent stereotypes about and encourages learning from the people students may serve.


  1. Decide if the class will tackle a single issue or form separate groups based on different issues. Provide time for students to research the community issue in depth.
  2. Ask students to discuss and record answers to these questions:
    • What specific community need(s) do you want to address?
    • Why are these issues important?
    • What new things did you learn from your research?
    • What solution(s) do you propose?
    • What specific action(s) can you and your peers realistically take to contribute to the solution?
    • Who are potential partners in this work?
    • What do you need to act on your idea(s)?
  3. Provide time to meet with each group to discuss its research, proposed action and needs. If roadblocks occur in the planning stages, work with students to develop creative solutions. Listen for stereotyping or misinformation about people your students are helping. When necessary, guide students to greater understanding about the issue or people involved.
  4. Go out and serve! Logistics will vary greatly. Develop a solid plan that takes into account time constraints, family permission, transportation, school support, community partners and safety.
  5. Create a reflection wall, class scrapbook or blog where students can post photographs and reflections.


Use journal writing or Talking Circles to facilitate student reflection both during and after service. Some suggested reflection questions include:
  • What did you learn about our community through this process? About yourself?
  • Discuss the effectiveness of using service learning for social justice change.
  • What about the process stands out for you? What was successful? Frustrating?

English language learners

Working outside the classroom provides “real world” language experiences, which may be positive but feel overwhelming. Before students go into the community, explicitly teach background knowledge and vocabulary related to the issue being addressed and population served. Show photographs of the location students will visit, and label any vocabulary words specific to that location.

Connection to anti-bias education

Service-learning increases student awareness of group, community and personal identity.4 When presented as an opportunity to partner with – rather than “save” – community members, service learning can diminish stereotypes and prejudices about people in need.5 It also encourages students to take action and work towards creating a more just world.6

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Learning for Justice in the South

When it comes to investing in racial justice in education, we believe that the South is the best place to start. If you’re an educator, parent or caregiver, or community member living and working in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana or Mississippi, we’ll mail you a free introductory package of our resources when you join our community and subscribe to our magazine.

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