Meenal Arora is a Management Postgraduate from the reputed Shri Ram College of Commerce (Delhi University). Founder Director of SHEMFORD Futuristic Schools & Executive Director of SHEMROCK Preschools, she is the primary force behind the development of the ShemEduMAX (TM) School System & Curriculum which is based on the latest research findings and changing needs and is implemented across all SHEMROCK & SHEMFORD branches. Mrs. Arora has been honoured with several prestigious awards like ‘100 Women Achievers Award’, by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India, the ‘Indo Global Exemplary Educationist Award’ at the International Education and Leadership Summit Awards 2016, the “Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education” at South Asia Education Summit Awards 2015 and many more. An enthusiastic writer as well, she has been consistently providing articles on parenting and many more topics related to children, which are regularly published in leading newspapers and monthly magazines.
Experiences in the real world can teach children a lot more than what a conventional classroom set up entails. For them to experience well-rounded education, it is important to go beyond the text books and familiarize them to social situations. While society is a common part of a child’s life, incorporating conscious efforts at maximising his/ her involvement in it can reap long term benefits.
A community activity can be anything that is done for the good of communities or society in general. It could range from initiating cleanliness programmes to distributing relief to the homeless. When you involve the child early in community activities, he/ she develops a more contextualized understanding of fellow humans and their perceptions.
For impactful learning, parents and teachers must introduce and demonstrate real-life situations that are simple to understand and execute, yet impactful in imparting life lessons to children. According to child development experts, following are the nine ways to teach kids about community involvement:
- Curate a list of problems in the world that one can help solve
The UN’s sustainable development goals, covering issues like quality education, gender equality and climate action gives a very relevant list of ideas for services to work on. Go through the goals with children and see which ones pique their interest. Together with the children, you can brainstorm, take up a goal, formulate a linear project and apply it in your community. Find organizations or NGOs in the area that specialize in the issue and see if you can collaborate with them to further their cause.
- Expose them to different causes and concerns
Give children a wide variety of options to select the causes or volunteer activities that they want to indulge in. While they participate in the cause, they come to discover their strengths and acquire industry-relevant skills and interests. Even when working on one cause, each child acquires a unique skill set, which he/ she is uniquely good at. For instance, within a cleanliness campaign, while some students can be on the frontline of the task, others could be better at executing tasks behind the scenes.
- Evoke empathy by enlightening them about stakeholders
Make sure that you present every aspect of the concerned cause, including different stakeholders and beneficiaries, so that children can look at it with all possible perspectives and empathise with them. This will enable them to apply their understanding and engage in meaningful action that’s outward-focused and balanced. This will make them better equipped to come up with creative solutions.
- Measure quality over quantity
It is always wiser to measure the impact rather than counting the number of hours spent on a task. Instead of assigning children with a minimum number of hours of community service per month, it is better to look at the impact of their work. Furthermore, it’s important for children to engage in community involvement that fosters their own learning. The aim is to actually deliver on the stated project and foster sincerity and commitment in children.
- Parents’ part: discussing community involvement at dinnertime
Knowingly or unknowingly, parents play an important role in teaching children about community engagement. If they make conscious efforts at doing so, it can be highly effective in instilling community values in them. By talking with their kids about what concerns the community and how their learning can be employed in furthering people’s interests, they can lead family activities that are in some way directed towards social good, giving the children a live example to live by.
- Linking project and curriculum
To bridge the gap between the academic curriculum and real-world problem solving, you need to integrate social projects and academic content. This leads to the formation of the greatest synergy of community engagement and learning experiences and aligns learning goals and community engagement goals. Without this integration, student learning and community impact can be limited.
- Use schools’ annual celebrations to create engagement
Schools can use big annual events to encourage students to celebrate in a way to contribute to a larger cause, like planting trees or sweeping streets on a cleaning campaign or a simple visit to an old age home. When you replace meaningless and lavish celebrations with such social practices, students successfully learn community engagement.
- Inculcate gratefulness in students
Children should also be reminded to be grateful for what people around them do for their community. Simple acts of kindness that make the service members-like policemen or gatekeepers feel appreciated, can form an active component in teaching community involvement.
- Take the classroom outdoors, nearer to the community
Build two-way partnerships between the school and the wider community, including local organizations and business, by taking the classroom outdoors. Use the local environment and community as practical learning resources, and encourage parents and community organizations to participate in solving common issues. Make the school a model for a sustainable community to act as a learning hub and role model for children.
Active learning through daily practical applications is what makes for a wholesome learning experience. If implemented effectively, it goes on to bringing the best out of children to develop them into good citizens that drive sustainability tomorrow.