DExecuting the Plan
Conduct an initial orientation meeting for prospective partners, which include local schools and youth-serving community organizations. The orientation meeting is an opportunity for mayors to:
- Introduce prospective partners to the service and learning goals of the initiative;
- Outline and clarify the required elements of the program;
- Explain impact metrics;
- Create a plan for partners to lead participating students in developing the service-learning content and integrate the initiative into relevant coursework or after school programming that builds youth knowledge about nutrition, fitness, and healthy lifestyles;
- Encourage partners to identify adult volunteers to assist the youth in developing their projects (volunteers may be teachers, community volunteers, older students, or staff in youth programs); and
- Introduce prospective partners to resources for projects such as grants from Youth Service America or the Corporation for National and Community Service, if available.
Designing The Program
Through Let’s Move, Let’s Learn, students will be supported by teachers, staff at youth-serving organizations, or adult volunteers to accomplish the dual learning and service impact goals of the initiative. These goals are to:
- Develop service-learning projects that will increase students’ knowledge and understanding of healthy lifestyles; and
- Increase exercise or the amount of fruits and/or vegetables young people consume.
The mayor’s office works with its partners to design the overall service-learning program to meet the stated goals. In accordance with the National Youth Leadership Council’s K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice, youth should play a central role in planning and executing their service projects. However, adults leading the Let’s Move, Let’s Learn initiative should determine the broad parameters of the program – including the timeline, duration and intensity, overall curriculum, and role of outside partnerships – before students are engaged. As recommended by Youth Service America, the most impactful service-learning programs run for at least 40 cumulative hours spread across concentrated blocks of time throughout a semester. (See the Resources section for additional best practices in service learning.)
Once the timeline and duration are established, the lead partner identifies specific topics on which the curriculum will focus. For example, if it is a school-based program, it will be important to determine how the projects will relate to the semester’s curriculum. If it is an after school program, it can help to designate a specific obesity-related educational topic of interest. To fully integrate service and intentional learning into program design, the teaching and learning component should be robust and planned in advance. For example, instructors should find creative ways to connect the structured lessons with real world experiences (e.g., connecting instruction on the benefits of healthy diets to students helping their peers examine the nutritional value of their daily lunches and make healthier choices). The major components of the curriculum can be found in the next section.
Executing The Service-Learning Curriculum
Although the specific programs may vary from city to city, all Let’s Move, Let’s Learn curricula and related activities should follow the IPARD/C model – investigation, preparation and planning, action, reflection, and demonstration and celebration – which is generally recognized as an effective method of engaging students in meaningful service-learning. As part of the larger program, students should be provided with a deadline for completing their service projects, suggested documentation and presentation formats, and any other locally determined requirements.
Step 1: Investigation
Students begin by examining childhood obesity in their community to understand why this issue is important. In addition to structured lessons led by adults, students may read news articles, watch media reports, or seek other reputable sources of information to ensure they have an adequate comprehension of childhood obesity in their community.
As an additional component of their research, students should explore examples of what healthy living looks like in their community (e.g., examining the nutritional value of a school lunch, counting the number of students involved in school sports). While they’re gathering information, students should be encouraged to reflect on how healthy living is relevant to them as individuals (e.g., how their diet impacts their health, how doing their favorite physical activities improves their health).
Step 2: Preparation and Planning
After a thorough investigation period, students will begin to determine their service-learning projects, ideally by working in teams. As part of this process, they set short-term goals (e.g., create a walk-to-school-together club) and long-term goals (e.g., desired changes, over time, in BMI or body fat percentage of walking club participants) that they would like to achieve. They also identify the roles that community members and potential partner organizations can play to help them.
Once students have selected goals, they are supported by adult project leaders (e.g., teachers, external partners, or adult volunteers) in creating a plan and timeline for implementation – including a plan to monitor progress against stated goals. While beginner projects can be completed in about two weeks, more advanced projects may take several weeks or months. Research has shown that the duration of service-learning projects is positively correlated with achieving the desired teaching and experiential outcomes. As mentioned, projects should be spread across a semester, with the whole program running at least 40 hours to most affect student lifestyle changes.
Examples of youth-led service projects that increase exercise or consumption of healthy food are:
- Starting an after school exercise club
- Creating a healthy snack station in schools
- Working with community gardens to grow vegetables that children can eat
- Cleaning or repairing a walking or hiking trail and engaging peers to use it
- Cleaning or repairing an athletic field or play space and organizing peers to use it
- Organizing a local farmers market
- Starting a school or community garden
- Organizing an intramural sports team or tournament
- Organizing a healthy eating seminar
- Organizing a personal training/fitness seminar
Step 3: Action
During this stage, students are supported in implementing their projects using the plan and timeline they created. While the individual projects may differ, it is important to establish a timeline for all projects from start to finish to ensure that students complete all stages of the IPARD/C process. Students also document their activities (e.g., submitting press releases to local elected officials, taking photographs of actions, recording quotes from activity participants).
Step 4: Reflection
Throughout the investigation, planning, and action phases, students should be reflecting on their progress and how their project relates to them, their community, and their future. Reflection exercises can be completed as a group or individually; either way helps students internalize the information learned during and after their service-learning projects.
After all service projects have concluded, students undertake a more expansive reflection period to evaluate their projects against the short- and long-term goals they determined at the outset. Adult project leaders guide students to think objectively about their service projects and examine what went well, what could be improved, and what the broader impact of their service projects are for themselves and their community. (For examples of questions for students to consider, see the Youth Service America First Responders toolkit listed in the Resources section.)
Step 5: Demonstration And Celebration: Sharing Results At A Let’s move, Let’s Learn Fair
Projects are presented at a Let’s Move, Let’s Learn Fair hosted by the mayor’s office and local partners. The fair could take place at City Hall, a school, a higher education institution, or a community organization. The fair, similar to a science fair, features displays prepared by the students to show the design of their projects, the ways that the projects increased healthy lifestyles, and the results the students achieved. Parents, other students, and members of the community are invited to view the fair; this helps broaden the potential impact of the initiative by educating additional people.
A local sponsor may provide prizes for the projects that achieve the greatest impact, with awards potentially presented by the mayor. Overall results using the required metrics can be displayed on a chart at the fair, highlighting the number of hours of exercise generated by all projects and the number of fruit and vegetable servings consumed by participants during the projects.
Let’s Move, Let’s Learn is a compelling fundraising opportunity for mayors’ offices to solicit support from foundations, nonprofits, and corporations with a commitment to the city, youth engagement, healthy eating, or active lifestyles. Additionally, grants may be made available to support service-learning initiatives. For example, Youth Service America provides a micro-grant program that offers funding for both student-led and educator-led projects supporting “healthy kids, healthy eating, and healthy exercise.”
Proposals for prospective funders should describe the opportunity for support and how the funds would be used. The elements of a typical proposal include:
- Description of the Let’s Move, Let’s Learn initiative
- Information on how this initiative would positively impact the city and the youth involved (e.g., number of youth reached by the projects, number of hours of exercise completed through the projects, increase in awareness and knowledge of healthy lifestyles)
- Amount of funding requested, proposed breakdown of grant(s), and how those funds would be used
- Metrics that would be collected to assess progress
- Information on Cities of Service (this is especially helpful for national organizations)
- Description of a recognition plan for the donor (e.g., logos on t-shirts, branding on your city’s service website, a speaking role at the Let’s Move, Let’s Learn Fair)
Recognizing and Thanking Volunteers
The Let’s Move, Let’s Learn Fair should serve as the major venue for recognizing and thanking the youth who completed service-learning projects, as well as the adult volunteers who supported them. Other options include seeking media coverage, featuring projects on the mayor’s website, and providing youth with certificates signed by the mayor.