Learning by Volunteering: Key to Holistic Education
An ancient Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” How fascinating a thought it is, isn’t it? Human beings have always found the necessity to evolve with time and to adapt to the surroundings by taking initiatives to bring in changes and improvements not only in the way we live but also in the manner in which we think and perceive our environment. Such attempts to make life better often witness a trigger from our home circle.
Man learns at each stage through observation, curiosity, responsibility, communication, empowered action and collaboration.
All these attributes drive human beings to look out for opportunities wherein they can volunteer in projects through a collaborative spirit to make society a better place with every new sunrise. As parents, elders, and educators our role to ensure the facilitation of the children to find great volunteer opportunities is manifold.
I place ‘parents’ at the apex of this triangle as primary education begins at home and it is from home where we draw our nourishment for all activities.
Educators are vital stakeholders in this process and act as catalysts to that effect. Children are curious little artists. There is no pre-set manual on how to encourage children to volunteer in projects as such. However, some handy-dandy pointers in this regard as outlined below will certainly produce a ripple effect, eventually leading to a wave of opportunities thereafter.
Here are some tips to encourage children
- Role modelling is an excellent strategy to inculcate the spirit of volunteering among children. While we talk about expressing solidarity in these extraordinary times, it would be great to make this habit an essential attribute of one’s lifestyle. Take your children to the house of your domestic help and encourage them to interact with the children living there. On your way back home ask some questions that will help your child reflect on survival conditions and lifestyle parameters. Over the next few visits to your domestic help’s place, volunteer to build a little kitchen area for them and then maybe a proper toilet and sanitation facilities gradually. This will help in promoting a clean habitat for humanity and a mindset to learn how to seek volunteering opportunities.
- Integrating service learning1 in the school curriculum is another powerful step. This will help them find potential opportunities by exploring the community and curricular needs, by planning and conducting a service, and by reflecting, demonstrating, and assessing the learning. Meaningful cross-curricular connections will expand the volunteering opportunities exponentially. I used National Learning Summer 2020.
- Technology and social networking have taken the entire world by storm and revolutionised the way we looked at things even till half a decade ago. Talking to our children as responsible adult members is the need of the hour. This should not be mistaken for controlling them or making them feel as if they are under some surveillance. Instead, it is sensible to make children feel respected and trusted. Teenagers should be talked into and encouraged to launch campaigns to combat hate crimes and other disturbing activities where streaks of any kind of prejudices are witnessed. Help children create a group of individuals who have a common vision and mission and nudge them to use the social network to spread messages of diversity, inclusion, compassion, empathy, and peace.
- Walk the talk. Practice what you preach as an adult. It could simply start with showing your love and care for animals by way of tending to an injured calf and taking it to a vet or creating start-up clubs where animal rights are promoted and discussed, and concrete steps are taken to ensure the safety of animals in their community and space. Gradually, a robust plan of action could be sketched and implemented.
- Blended Learning should be brought to the fore to enable children to find great volunteer opportunities. For example, a weekend visit to the beach or an amusement park in your city or town should draw their attention to the rampant dumping of waste and plastic, and other toxic substances that are not only harmful to marine life and other species but also detrimental to the health of animals on land. Efforts could be made and initiatives could be appreciated to form alliances with community partners for a beach clean-up drive or starting a donation campaign with the objective to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste.
- Children love challenges. Often the most brilliant sparks to volunteer in activities come from employing reverse psychology strategies. When you coyly tell the 21st-century children that they are not capable of doing certain tasks, they take it up as a powerful challenge and attempt to do that with utmost dedication and sincerity, as if their life and reputation were dependent on it.
- Reward children with occasional tokens of appreciation that will encourage them and give an impetus to continuing the pursuit of such volunteer opportunities.
- Create and resurrect the culture of reading to your children. As parents and educators, we must not forget our multifarious roles and duties. Some of the greatest life lessons, skills, and values come to fruition when you engage your children in a reading activity, at least for an hour each day. This could be scheduled at your convenience. Teachers may read out in the form of classroom enrichment sessions while parents should read out before bedtime. Readout stories of transformation and episodes of commitment and dedication where simple acts of bravado have revamped lifestyle and survival strategies.
- Teach crisis support and management to children. Help them create a society Red Cross in the residential buildings wherein medical assistance may be provided to the needy during times of emergency. Similarly, even a ‘food bank’ can be opened to help the needy. This will help children understand the importance of responsible consumption of goods and curb wastage of the same.
- Collaboration is the key. Visits to orphanages, Old Age Homes, and care centres will help children look for opportunities to volunteer in offering services either by initiating a fund-raiser or by creating awareness and spreading the message to initiate a drive to help the marginalized sections of the society.
The need to look for an opportunity arises when the realization of what we lack is made evident. It is true that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Children should be brought up as caregivers and enthusiastic volunteers who are rid of any vested interests. However, as adults, it is our responsibility to guide them in the right direction. The integration of the service-learning program helps children to assess the goals and create their proposals for the identified volunteer project. It is extremely crucial to draw up a significant plan which is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. That would indeed be a SMART way to find, explore, and brainstorm effective volunteer opportunities.
Let us all come together to help the future of the world be the harbingers of a community where we don’t just preach sustainability but redefine the core policies and philosophies of sustainable and empowered living. Each child is unique. Each child has myriad ideas that need to be given a patient hearing. Each new idea can open up multiple possibilities to make this world a better place to live in.
To read more articles by Abhinandan Bhattacharya