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Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities

Holly Hilboldt Swain (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Meagan Roberts Chapman (Lisenby Primary School, Ozark, Alabama, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 23 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to allow students to explore the role of volunteerism in their communities as they become community helpers through a service learning project to engage in action within their local areas. This lesson introduces various social studies concepts of civic responsibility while allowing students to think critically and examine their own feelings of empathy and ways to enact these feelings to help others.


Students create a class service project after they explore the content of the trade book and related resources and teach and learn with one another about helping their communities. Students will expand their learning and apply critical thinking as they note similarities and differences in community helpers’ abilities and their own abilities while they identify themselves as citizens of a community.


Findings include actively engaged students independently and cooperatively participating in meaningful and relevant learning. The lessons are designed so that they may be differentiated for differing needs of early childhood students and for students with special needs. Further, the lessons encourage an interdisciplinary approach to teaching social studies in the early grades.


The value of this lesson is apparent in the way it allows early childhood students and students with special needs to recognize their own roles as volunteers and agents of change in their communities. This lesson provides ample support for teachers working with early childhood students and students with special needs who may have few experiences with service learning prior to these lessons.



Swain, H.H. and Chapman, M.R. (2017), "Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 9-21.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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