More on service-learning in our second installment of our three part blog series, and how Camp Fire youth are connecting to community to make a difference.

Service-learning projects and clubs are multifaceted, and involve a variety of steps before the youth actually jump into solutions. Students interested in doing outdoor service may consider what projects are possible at their school. What needs to be fixed? Camp Fire kids are given the opportunity to identify these needs themselves, maybe with a walking tour of the school grounds. Perhaps the school garden may need weeding or planting (but for what purpose?). Maybe the school could use an art mural, the playground may need trash to be cleaned up, signs made as reminders to clean up trash, or an additional outside public garbage can on hand. Camp Fire staff lead discussions and help the students to break those issues down further into actions steps they choose to take as a group.

Sunset Primary students making soap to donate to a homeless shelter.

Once initial steps are identified, it’s time to go deeper and connect with broader topics. Cleaning projects could connect to pollution, for example. Special guests or field trips with community partner organizations can be added. Throughout the planning process the students add their voices to further develop the ways in which they are taking action. Key questions include: What roles are possible in being a part of the service-learning club? How can learning about the tools needed for the project become additional opportunities for discovery?

Camp Fire kids at Sunset Primary wanted to give back to the community and have fun. They spent an afternoon making soap!

The students talked together as a group about what it means to give back to the community. They suggested that they should donate things like soap to people in need because they might not have soap of their own to use to wash their hands, and that everyone deserves to be clean.

To make the soap, the kids worked carefully with staff to melt glycerin and add their own fragrance and colors. Once the soap was mixed they poured their liquid into trays to cool and solidify. Then when the soaps were completely finished, they were donated to community centers and homeless shelters in the West Linn area. The students had a great time making soap and were so excited to help those in need.

David Douglas HS students creating bird toys to donate to the Oregon Humane Society.

Teens in our Thrive program at David Douglas and Fir Ridge High Schools used their time in their service-learning lunch club to make enrichment toys for rescue birds at the Oregon Humane Society. To start things off, the students learned about the rescue of the 245 birds that OHS conducted (one of the largest in Oregon history!). They discussed what the legal process of determining the fate of the birds looked like. In this case OHS was not able to adopt the birds out to others until a decision had been made, or the owner relinquished ownership. The process continued and the birds were able to go to new adoption homes in December.

While learning how to make the toys for the birds, the Camp Fire teens were encouraged to be creative while also staying within the guidelines for their toys. They discussed the responsibility for caring for that many birds and the burden of resources that creates to keep the caged birds healthy. In the process they learned how having enrichment toys built and donated would be a huge help to support the animals.

Camp Fire Kids Helping Homeless Youth

Camp Fire students in multiple school locations wanted to help homeless youth. Through separate projects happening at HB Lee Middle School and at David Douglas High School, hot cocoa kits were created for New Avenues For Youth. New Avenues is an organization that supports youth who are experiencing homelessness with things like educational assistance, counseling, resources, and shelter facilities. The Camp Fire teens at HB Lee were incredibly focused while making the kits, and were so excited to deliver the treats when they toured the facilities the next day!

HB Lee students making hot cocoa kits for New Avenues for Youth.

The students at David Douglas High School took part in a Youth Volunteer Corps project to discuss the various ways that housing insecurity can impact youth. They also reviewed statistics about homelessness in Portland. The Camp Fire students learned that usually basic necessities are given priority in donation requests. The teens touched on how having access to non-essential treats, such as hot cocoa, can have an impact on the quality of life.

Through their commitment to give back, the students were able to donate over 60 hot cocoa kits to New Avenues, which will incorporate them into their incentive program. Youth who meet with tutors, counselors, work, or volunteer, receive tickets that they can use to pick out rewards. The hot cocoas will be available from a pool of items to select from.

Stay tuned for part 3 on service-learning, and see how Camp Fire was able to provide toys for youth for the holidays, and more!