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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches

KIDS as Planners Service-Learning Model

Grade level: Pre-K – 12

Promising Approaches:

  • Service-Learning and Community Service

Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Evaluation Studies
Required Resources
Available Resources
Professional Development Opportunities
Snapshots of Practice in Action
Contact Information


Service-learning is a teaching strategy that connects classroom instruction with community service experiences – engaging youth in their schools and communities.  Using the KIDS as Planners Service-Learning Model, students are challenged to identify, research and solve real problems, and then evaluate their learning and effectiveness. Service-learning is seen as a powerful strategy to implement Maine Learning Results.

KIDS Consortium’s KIDS as Planners Service-Learning Model emphasizes 3 core principles for high quality projects.  The first is academic integrity. Students learn and apply knowledge and skills that are part of a required academic program, are engaged in meaningful work and assessed on authentic products (e.g., survey development, data display and analysis, research writing, reading informational texts).  Projects are not add-ons. The second is student ownership. Students help determine community problem selection; research, plan and implement solutions; explore their strengths to set goals; and ultimately learn that they have the power to make a difference. The third is apprentice citizenship. Students meet real community needs while working with and learning from community members.  In the process they develop civic awareness and skills and feel more connected to their community.

Eight steps guide students, teachers and community partners through a KIDS project: 1) Define service-learning:  Students and partners need to understand what service-learning is. 2) Discover issues/problems:  Teachers and community partners help students identify relevant and interesting issues/problems. 3) Investigate the problems:  Students investigate the causes and effects of identified problems before they even think about solutions. 4) Research solutions:  Students identify and research possible solutions to understand what it would take to implement them (time, resources, impact, etc.). 5) Decide on a project:  Students evaluate their solutions and select one as a way to solve the problem. 6) Plan the project:  Students create an action plan for their project including tasks, timelines, etc. 7) Implement the plan:  Students put their plan into action and complete the project with help from the teacher and community partners.  8) Evaluate:  Students and community partners evaluate the impacts of the project.

Along with the above steps, KIDS as Planners identifies 5 other focus areas throughout the project: A Collaborative Environment must be developed for effective teamwork among class members. Reflection opportunities must be provided frequently for students to make connections between the project and students’ learnings. Effective Public Relations makes the public aware of the project. Multiple Celebrations should be held to build ongoing enthusiasm for the project and recognize accomplishments. The project must be directly connected to Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Special Features

The KIDS as Planners Model was initiated by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development in 1990.  In 1992, KIDS Consortium became incorporated as a Maine-based, non-profit organization and has since become a nationally recognized leader in both the service-learning and civic education movement.  With help from KIDS, teachers match projects to school curricula and learning standards, providing a powerful “hands-on” learning experience that improves the community and brings academics to life.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Key historical periods, episodes, themes, and experiences of individuals and groups
  • Key principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Structures, processes, functions, branches, and levels of U.S. government and legal system
  • Social and political networks for making change, such as voluntary associations or local organizing

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one’s position through writing or speaking
  • Planning and implementing civic action through managing, organizing, and building consensus
  • Voicing opinion through electoral and non-electoral means, such as voting, lobbying, protesting, and organizing.

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved          

Evaluation Studies

Each year, KIDS Consortium asks the districts with which it works to administer teacher, community partner and students participating in service-learning projects.  KIDS Consortium has data from the past 5 years to support the efficacy of the KIDS as Planners Service-Learning Model.  KIDS has also worked with the National Center for Student Aspirations and Brandeis University to develop surveys for middle and high school students.

Required Resources

Training in the KIDS as Planners Model of Service-Learning. KIDS as Planners Guidebook, revised edition.

Available Resources

Links to service-learning and civic education organizations and resources are online at and in Chapter 8, “Resources,” in the KIDS as Planners Guidebook.

Grants for service-learning are periodically offered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Maine state government agencies, KIDS Consortium, and other local and national organizations.  Check

Professional Development Opportunities

Local and Regional Teacher Workshops.
Hall of Flags and Project Citizen Showcase in Augusta.
Student Leadership Summit.
“Systems Thinking” conference for school-community leadership teams.
Service-learning workshops offered at conferences run by other Maine organizations (e.g., Maine Association of Middle Level Educators, Aroostook County’s Education Consortium Organization, Promising Futures, Great Maine Schools, Maine Support Network, Maine Arts Council and various DOE sponsored events).

Snapshots of the Practice in Action

The St. Francis Historical Society asked Fort Kent High School environmental science students to restore the old train turntable and the path leading up to it.  Their semester was spent learning the principles of environmental engineering as well as local history while they cleared trees, painted and created an erosion-proof path.

While studying Franco-American culture in their 8th grade French class at Lewiston Middle School, students interviewed seniors to collect stories for the archives at the Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s in Lewiston.  Students collected over 70 stories in written, audio and video formats about the mills and shoe factories, holiday and family celebrations, military service and other experiences.

When a 4th grade teacher at North Yarmouth Memorial School noticed students frequently complaining about losing the ball at recess, she asked her students what they wanted to do about it.  Students brainstormed a number of suggestions and conducted research by contacting outside experts such as landscapers, fence makers and town officials.  The end result was a much safer playground design that included new fencing, plantings, grading and stonework.  Community help included high school students who built new benches as part of their industrial arts class.

Contact Information

KIDS Consortium
215 Lisbon Street
Lewiston, ME  04240
Phone: 207-784-0956
Fax:  207-784-6733 


Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy