Identifying the most important issue facing your community may be easy. But the most important issue may not be one that you and your classmates are most comfortable dealing with. The issue may be too big, costly, or emotional to successfully deal with in class. It is more important to identify an issue in which you and your classmates are interested and which you can do something about.
There are many ways to identify an action issue. One way is to talk to the mayor, city council, or other government leaders and ask them what issues they would like to see addressed. Based on the answers, your class can then develop a project around one of those issues.
Another choice would be for you and your class to create its own vision of the future and develop a project that will help make that vision come true. The class can identify what it wants to do and then contact local officials to find out how to work on the vision. The following are suggestions to help get you started:
Part I: The Purpose... Start by talking about the purpose of the community. Why does it exist? Draw on what you have already learned. The purpose is not the community's history or why it was established. It is a statement that describes what role the community has in people's lives. Generally, the purpose will be described as a place to work, go to school, live, and/or raise a family.
Part II: Vision... Once you have decided on why the community exists, start thinking about what you want your community to look like in the future. For example, imagine that your family has just moved to another community, and 20 years from now returns home. What would members of the family see if everything happened just the way they had imagined? This vision might include statements like: Safe and affordable housing for all residents A new Community Center A new baseball or soccer park A recycling center that meets all community recycling needs Activities for youth Living without crime
Part III: Theme... Once a vision has been established, talk about the different themes that might be part of the vision. Themes might include housing, recreation, and the environment. If more than five to six themes are identified, try to combine them so that there are no more than five or six themes to choose from. The themes are what projects are built on.
If the class wants to deal with only one issue in the community, then it needs to select a single theme (like the environment). If there is interest in developing projects in several different areas, then more than one theme should be picked. Just remember that the theme(s) will become the basis for project development.
Once a theme has been selected, then identify all the vision statements that have to do with that theme. The class now has a focus for its project. In addition, it knows clearly what it wants to see take place within that theme in the form of the vision statements. The class can now start developing action plans that will bring it closer to the vision it has for the future.
The following are some possible project ideas for students:
- Research their community's history and write/publish a book or video
- Study the impact of a proposed business development for their community
- Design and construct a 3D model of an 'ideal' community—students might want to use Legos to build their “Ideal City.”
- Design and build a 3D model of an 'ideal' school—students might want to use Legos to build their “Ideal School.”
- Research and write a school constitution
- Investigate traffic conditions outside their school and report their findings with recommendations to their city council
- Study their community's planning and zoning policies
- Serve on a local government youth task force or youth council; if there is no task force or youth council, find out how to start one.
- Study public safety issues in the community such as juvenile crime and curfews and present their proposals to the city council
- Establish a school and community recycling program and create a marketing plan to ensure that students and community members actually participate in the recycling program.
- Restore a local playground
- Identify a local park that needs a little bit of help, i.e., painting of park benches, planting flowers or plants and work with the local park department to actually help do the work. This could be done as a community service project.