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Sample Activities

Service Barometer

Ask participants to stand up in the center of the room. Let them know that after you read a statement they have to decide for themselves whether or not they believe it is community service. Show the participants which side of the room is “yes” and which side is “no."  Ask people who are comfortable to share with the group why they are standing where they are on the barometer.  Ask participants to share their feelings/observations/thoughts.

Community Service Statements

  • providing dinner once a week at a homeless shelter
  • voting
  • talking about a social justice issue with a friend
  • giving $50 to your favorite charity
  • organizing a campus rally for affirmative action
  • giving blood
  • picking up trash at a local park
  • visiting and socializing with an elderly person

Processing Questions

  • What values/beliefs led to your classification as service or not?
  • Which of these are examples of direct / nondirect / indirect service?

Defining Service with a Reflection Activity

Readings for DiscussionIllich, Ivan. (April 20, 1968). 

To Hell With Good Intentions.  Speech. Pharr, Susan. (1988).  “Common Elements of Oppression” in Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism.  Inverness, CA: Chardon Press, 52-64.

Understanding Community-based Service-LearningBegin by reading The Starfish Story (adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley)

"Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.  One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.  As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."  "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"

  • What is the message of the story?
  • Do you identify with either of the characters?

Now read “Starfish Hurling and Community Service” by Keith Morton

  • How is your service a political action?
  • How can/do you partner with community members?
  • What are the complexities and interconnections of the people and systems of your service efforts?
  • In what ways is your service involvement driven by a sense of justice?
  • How do you balance individual actions that do not address collective action or community involvement?

Sources:Morton, Keith.  (1999).  Starfish Hurling and Community Service. In Campus Compact Reader, May 2000, p. 23.


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