What Are You Doing for Others? Inspiring Youth to Make a Difference

There has been a tremendous amount of discourse regarding the current political climate in our nation. I have abstained from getting involved in these discussions as I do not wish to offend or make anyone uncomfortable.

The other day, however, my sister-in-law directly asked me for my opinion. In response to her question, I admit I was vague and I didn’t go into any detail about my political opinion. I did state though that it is my hope that through the events of the past year, perhaps our youth will be more engaged in politics and causes for which they feel impassioned.

“I have never been interested in politics myself,” I stated. “Yet, what I observe is that people are beginning to realize their voice – their vote – makes a difference. They are finding the courage to speak up and to speak out rather than stand by as ideal observers.”

What Are You Doing for Others? Inspiring Youth to Make a Difference @EvaVarga.netWhen we were traveling through the East Coast this past fall, we visited numerous national monuments and historical landmarks. Famous quotations were often inscribed in the granite and I would read these aloud as we walked. My daughter photographed many and copied her favorites into her journal including,

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had carefully coordinated our history studies prior to our departure to align with this trip. Much of our family discussions thereby revolved around historical events and the impact of our nation’s past leaders.

Study Rhetoric and Fallacies of Logic

In the evening, we would watch some of the presidential debates. We also watched snippets of previously recorded presidential debates as well as speeches delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. We made note of their speaking style and the way in which they interacted with the other debaters and moderators.

When the kids were younger, we enjoying reading together The Fallacy Detective. It is fascinating to witness them continue to recognize these fallacies in others. It is especially humorous when the catch their own father special pleading.

Now that they are a little older, I look forward to incorporating more lessons on debate and rhetoric, a skill I feel is significantly lacking in most school curricula. As such, I have ordered a copy of The Discovery of Deduction which uses methods such as Socratic dialogue, discussion, and other subjects areas to teach dialectic students the art of rhetoric.

Legacy Dr MLKTake Action & Get Involved

A few years ago, I wrote a post for Multicultural Kid Blogs entitled, He Had a Dream: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Throughout my post, I explore ideas and opportunities for today’s youth to get involved and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Consider also the example of Dr. Jane Goodall who stated Every individual matters, every individual has a role to play, every individual can make a difference

 

Finishing Strong #107

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

Finishing Strong Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.


This past week has been been full of new experiences and learning opportunities in our home. Not just for the kids but for us parents as well – both personally and professionally.

In regards to the kids, Geneva has completed her first term at the community college, started competitive swimming with our local high school team (the alma mater of both her father and I), and earned her first Venturing rank. Last week, I’ve shared a little about Geneva’s plan for high school in my post, High School Forecasting: Coordinating Schedules, CLEP Exams, and College Courses.
high-school-forecasting

Jeffrey has participated in his first FIRST Lego League competition, solved a 3×3 cube in a new personal best under 10 seconds (he’s very excited), and made great strides on his journey to Eagle Scout. I’ll be sharing more about his endeavors soon.


I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That’s has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Let’s continue to work together to make this resource a success. Please share this post and link-up your own posts below.

I know you will find the posts that have been shared with us inspiring! Grab a cup of tea, kick back, and take some time to check out the wonderful posts shared below. What are your favorites?

“"BoardThe post with the most clicks last week was Megan’s 6 Board Games for Teens shared at Education Possible.  As a family that loves board games, I was delighted to see new titles as well as a few old favorites.

100 STEM ProjectsSTEAM is my passion and thus, Heather’s post, 100 STEM Activities for Kids & Teens of All Kinds, was my favorite post this past week. I really need to create a post like this one myself. :)

Teens Can Make a DifferenceService learning has always been a major component of our homeschool. For this reason, I loved Megan’s post 5 Ways Teens Can Make a Difference in the World.

@ @ @

As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


Volunteer Opportunities for Kids

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netVolunteering is an opportunity to change lives, including your own.  It is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect.

As a family, we have made volunteering and service learning a major component of our homeschool. Over the years, we have had opportunities to volunteer in a variety of ways. I’d like to share some of those experiences with you in hopes of inspiring you to seek out volunteer opportunities for kids in your local community.

Roots & Shoots

My children and I have been active in Roots & Shoots since they were toddlers. Roots & Shoots is a youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. They are encouraged to work towards three goals: Care & Concern for the Environment, Care & Concern for Animals, and Care & Concern for the Community.

One of the things I love about Roots & Shoots is the flexibility. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face.  From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netWe were recently interviewed for a local magazine about our volunteer efforts with Roots & Shoots. My kids loved talking with the reporter about their projects – each sharing what was in their heart and how they have been inspired to do locally.

My son shared his passion for music and talked about how he volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to perform for the residents. He stated, “I really look forward to going. I like giving them something to listen to and I like hearing them share about how music has touched their lives.”

My daughter talked about her long-term study looking at the impact of invasive turtles have on the ecosystem, specifically how they affect the population of native pond turtles. She shared with the reporter the posters she and her friends made to inform the public of the threat releasing pets.

Read my post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots to learn more about this dynamic program. You might also consider joining me for a free online course this summer, Turning Learners Into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education.

Humane Society / Animal Shelter

Volunteering at a local animal shelter is one of the easiest ways to make a difference. Children can decorate kennels, help with events, foster an animal, or even walk the dogs. Children may be interested in raising monies to purchase food, bedding, or goods as a donation.

When my kids were younger, we volunteered at a shelter regularly to simply play with the cats. They wanted to walk the dogs as well but weren’t quite old enough. Age restrictions will vary so check with your local shelter to learn more.

Rescue Mission / Homeless Shelter

Another great way to give back is to volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter. A few years ago, I volunteered in the education department of our local mission and my children were allowed to accompany me. They worked on their own assignments as I walked around the room and helped the women with their coursework and job training skills.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netLiving History

Some of our fondest memories of volunteering come from our experiences at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, where we volunteered as living history interpreters, Homeschooling in 1880: Living History Volunteers. In this role, we spent one day a week dressed up in period clothing and told the story of the early pioneers in the high desert. Our story was based loosely on our own ancestors. It was an awesome way to connect with the past as well as develop public speaking skills.

Public Library

My daughter is anxiously awaiting her 13th birthday so that she can serve on our local library’s teen advisory board. In this role she would get to interact with other avid readers, make recommendations to library staff on books, programs, and services, and inform patrons of her favorite books via shelf flags.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. ~ Jane Goodall

Adopt-A-Park

Many municipalities utilize partnerships with local organizations to preserve, beautify and maintain neighborhood parks. Some of the tasks could include pruning, raking, weeding, light painting, graffiti removal, litter removal, tree and flower planting. As a part of the turtle project, my daughter is considering this option for the future.

Community Cleanups & Weed Pulls

Lastly, another way to tap into volunteer work is through organizations like church youth groups, scouts, and local agencies. The California Coastal Commission organizes an annual beach cleanup event in the fall each year.

Invasive species have always been a passion for me and we’ve thereby participated in many community weed pulls – both locally and while on vacation. You can read about our weed pull experience in Hawai’i in my post, Hoaloha ‘aina Weed Pull. Can you find a weed pull or cleanup in your community?

~ ♥︎ ~

I have shared additional resources and ideas for volunteer opportunities in my post, It’s Our Turn to Lead: Earth Day 2015,  at Multicultural Kid Blogs. I encourage you to take time to talk over the interests you share as a family and seek out options in your area. In what ways can YOU make a difference?

In Honor of Dr Jane: Every Individual Matters

Dame Jane Morris Goodall is an English primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She was born today, April 3rd in 1934. She has been a role model to me since I was a young girl. It gives me great pleasure to write this post as part of the Earth Month blog hop and share it with you on her birthday.

2015 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and will be celebrated on Saturday, April 18th. It comes during a pivotal time to protect the planet and ensure that world leaders address key issues facing the next generation. There is no better time to get involved and to take action.

Every individual matters.

Every individual has a role to play.

Every individual makes a difference.

In Honor of Dr Jane @EvaVarga.net

My children and I have had the opportunity to meet Dr. Jane on several occasions. Her quiet demeanor and the strength of her conviction always inspire us to do more. In an earlier post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots, I shared some of the projects and activities we have undertaken through Roots & Shoots.

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane and places the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people.

Just for fun, enjoy this delightful poem by Jane Goodall, The Old Wisdom.

In Honor of Dr Jane @EvaVarga.net

Dr Jane’s Roots & Shoots

Through our participation in Roots & Shoots, we have always looked for ways in which we can show our care and concern for the environment, for animals, and the community. My children and I volunteer in a variety of ways – each choosing projects and service learning activities that are suited to their individual passions.

My daughter is passionate about the environment. She repurposes a variety of things and sells them at local craft sales. She donates a portion of the money she raises to charitable causes. She is also spearheading a long-term project to study the impact of non-native invasive turtles on native species (Saving the Native Turtles and Don’t Let it Loose). My son volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to share his love of music with the residents. He has also coordinated a cupcake sale to raise money for Nystagmus.

Turn Learners into Leaders

This summer, Roots & Shoots is offering an innovative online professional development course. Free and open to everyone, this course will teach participants how to identify and implement a local service learning campaign using the Roots & Shoots program model and grow the next generation of Jane Goodalls.

Complete the course and mentor young people to lead change in their communities by mapping needs, collaborating with stakeholders, and designing practical solutions in the form of campaigns. Connect young people to Dr. Goodall’s message of hope while faciliating a sense of empowerment that comes from helping others.

To join me and other Roots & Shoots leaders around the world in this wonderful course, visit Turning Learners into Leaders.

natural parenting guide and earth month blog hop
To learn more about how you can make a difference, be sure to visit the Earth Month blog hop.

You will find up-cycling crafts, ec0-friendly toys, and gardening tips. You can also enter the giveaway to win one of the fantastic prizes!

Bottle Cap Mural Project – Part 1

In November each year, I coordinate an annual Art Show for our local homeschool community.  This past year, I wanted to undertake a long term project that would enable the homeschool students in our area to collaborate with one another and to make an impact on the greater community.  When I learned of bottle cap murals – I knew this was the perfect project.

See my previous posts here and here to learn how to easy it is to plan an art show for your homeschool community.

I am so excited to share this project with you, I couldn’t wait until we are finished. This mural project is an amazing example of how capable children are given the opportunity to express themselves in new and innovative ways. There were so many valuable steps involved; today I detail how the project got underway.muralproject

We began collecting bottle caps in the spring of last year and by the time school began in the fall, we had begun begging our friends and families to do the same. Each time we visited Grandma and Papa in Oregon, they’d have a plastic tub full of caps they had saved for us. We were even saving our caps while in South America and had everyone in our tour group doing the same.

Other families in our community did the same.  I am so proud of the families and students who collected thousands of bottle caps, caps that otherwise would have gone into the trash, to create this incredible mural.

I wanted to create a mural that reflected our local area but that was also relatively simple in design. I sketched a few ideas on paper, conferred with my kids, made a few modifications and eventually settled upon a design featuring Mt. Shasta, the Sacramento River, and the Sun Dial Bridge – three prominent landmarks in Northern California.

A week prior to the art show, my kiddos and I went to Home Depot and purchased the materials we would need to complete the project.  I had considered seeking donations from our local ACE Hardware but just never followed through.

  • 4′ x 4′ wood panels (which I asked to be cut in half only so it would fit inside my Honda Accord). Any size will work – depending upon the design.
  • Caulking (I purchased two kinds and haven’t yet determined which is best)
  • Paint (we used what we had on hand – acryllic)
  • Brushes

The next step was to transfer our template onto the wood panel and paint the background. Using a grid system, I quickly drew in the image with pencil and then recruited my own children to help me paint the background. Ideally, I would have liked all students to be involved in painting the mural but I elected to have the kids be involved only in adhering the bottle caps.

bottlecapproject

At that point, the mural is ready for caps. I thereby transported the mural to the library where the art show was taking place. I laid it upon an old picnic table cloth and set out the boxes of bottle caps (sorted by color) around the perimeter.

My children supervised the others in adhering the caps using the caulking gun.  At some point in the process, however, a few adults took over supervision and my own kids walked away to allow others an opportunity to get involved.

Some kids wanted us to leave it just as a painting because it looked so pretty.  To be honest, I was a little scared myself it wouldn’t look as good once we added the bottle caps.  Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

 

I wasn’t able to supervise myself as I was involved with other details of the art show. In retrospect, I wish I had better explained the vision to the other adults because some cap colors were adhered to the board that didn’t match the background. I thereby spent some time scraping off these caps when I got home.

Sadly, we didn’t have enough bottle caps in the colors we needed (particularly purple and light blue). The board thereby is awaiting completion in the hallway of my home. When the board is finished, we will screw in the caps with screws to more securely mount them to the board.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of the bottle cap mural project when we donate the completed mural for display locally.

 

Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots

I have coordinated a Roots & Shoots club in one form or another since I first heard Jane Goodall speak at an Oregon Science Teacher’s Conference in 1997. She has been an inspiration to me since I was a little girl. Taking part in Roots & Shoots has not only enabled me to meet Jane Goodall, but has encouraged me to work hard to make a difference.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference, human and non-human alike.” ~ Jane Goodall

servicelearning

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face.  From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

“What you do makes a DIFFERENCE. You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Service learning projects combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good. Service learning can help your students become better learners, classmates, and citizens, and can help them make a valuable contribution to their communities.

map

This past summer, Roots & Shoots dramatically redesigned their website and the teaching tools they provide for their group leaders. They offered a four week course titled “Turning Learners into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education” and I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part. It revitalized my approach to service learning and renewed my enthusiasm for Roots & Shoots.

I discovered that effective service learning emphasizes the following elements:

  • Integrated Learning
  • Community Need
  • Student Voice
  • Collaboration
  • Civic Responsibility
  • Reflection
  • Evaluation

There are many opportunities to engage students in service learning. Read about some of the projects my Roots & Shoots groups have undertaken over the years. I have color coded them to coordinate with the Roots & Shoots formula for success (Get Engaged, Map It, Take Action, and Celebrate).