CHALLENGES and STRENGTHS BASED SOLUTIONS:
Challenging issues faced by those implementing Service Learning in an after-school setting and some Strength-based solutions to address these challenges. (Strength based solutions are those that build on the strengths of the individual, group, family, or community to meet the needs or challenges that your students identify. Don't forget: sometimes a challenge contains hidden strengths: got a student who won't stop talking in group? Harness that social networking skill for your program. Get them on in the community, on the phone or online to serve your project!)

Challenge: Setting up a new program
  • Use 'Door openers' to take to Principals to get your program approved at that site.
    • Check our resources section for great websites and info you can download to help represent your program with your administrative team.
    • Remember your Audience: Use language and communicate ideas that will be meaningful to your audience and contribute to their goals:
      • School Administrators
      • Parents
      • Youth
      • Politicians
      • Community Support Agencies
      • Local business owners, etc


Challenge: How do you initially get students to the table? How do you the kids in one place to initially talk about the program?

  • Advertise during lunches, before school, during announcements, during advisory, etc
  • Start with a small group, create success and let the word spread! Encourage students to bring friends and family to participate

Challenge: Project ideas: short projects, on campus, little to no cost...
  • search the web: www.kidactivities.net
  • no sew blankets
  • cleaning up the park
  • kids exercise with elderly
  • teaching dance at senior center


Challenge: Recruitment of Parents in Service Learning Activities
  • Taking Advantage of Opportunities to Notify Parents of Activities
  • Develop participation, not just presence
  • Ask students about strengths families can bring to the project:
    • Transportation
    • Supervision
    • Resources: land for garden, seeds, tools, fishing poles…
    • Information & Expertise

Challenge: Finding community partners and encouraging parent involvement.
  • What resources do you have on campus:
  • PTA/PTO
  • Communities in Schools
  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • ???????

Challenge: Keeping the youth excited about coming each week
  • Youth Voice: keep the focus on the kids interests, and let them lead!
  • Start with a small successful project
  • Maintain group safety: make sure group rules/norms are followed and do plenty of team builders.

Challenge: How to keep students and parents motivated?
  • Keep them informed about upcoming opportunities & success stories
  • Celebrate successes everyday!
  • Make projects meaningful!
    • Keep adjusting methods to stay focused on the kids project goals
    • Reframe: look for the strengths—what strengths can you gain from “failures?”
    • Make sure parents, students and school teams know what you are accomplishing

Challenge: Transportation Issues for Service Learning Activities
  • Use parents as resources for transportation.
  • Pool resources/collaborate with other programs.
  • Implement projects on campus or within walking distance.
  • Including activities that continually engage students

Challenge: Incorporating the “learning” part of Service Learning: time restraints, elementary school kids (Also see header for Connections to Curriculum)
  • Begin “learning” the first week.
  • Every activity contains learning. Be a detective: look for the learning gain!
  • Break down learning goals required by school or program and target ways to implement
  • Remember: Learning happens throughout the project.
  • Learning is fun! Let the kids discover the world and themselves.


Challenge: Getting kids to be interested and stay focused, doing what they like to do? How do you "GUIDE" students in planning their service learning activities? (HINT: Use the LEADERS Model of Service Learning!)

  • Take this opportunity to get to know your students
    • What do they like?
    • What are they concerned about?
    • What would they like to change about their community?
  • Do things that are relatable, creative, relevant, meaningful, personal to the students
  • Use the information gather about student concerns/likes/interests to search for project ideas
  • Use some of the great web resources to find sure fire projects to get your program rolling, such as Service Learning Texas
  • Lead from behind!
    • Ask open ended questions
    • Use team builders and reflective activities to let the student know they can solve problems, make discoveries, and create solutions

Challenge: Extracting new ideas from the students
  • Create safety: make it safe for kids to share ideas!
  • Have the kids establish good group rules or norms
  • Use team builders to help you and the students get to know each other
  • Use creative reflective tools to capture information

Challenge: Finding projects that provide results for young students as well as groups with constantly changing students
  • Implement projects that new students can join & understand (based on attendance)
  • Smaller projects within larger ones.
  • Constantly being refreshed with new strengths
  • Remember: SL curriculum is alive
  • Give kids leadership to teach incoming kids