Getting Involved: Volunteers at our school

Level

Primary

Description

This activity explores the concept of 'volunteering' in the context of benefiting members of the community. The focus is on volunteers within the local school. Students discuss the concept of what it means to volunteer, then identify and interview volunteers at the school.

This process of volunteering can be seen as the first step toward developing an understanding of what it means to be politically active. This activity relates to the 'Citizens and Public Life' theme in the Discovering Democracy School Materials Project. The concepts are explored further in the Middle Primary unit, Joining In.

Activity

Ask students if they or their family or friends have been volunteers. Have them describe what being a volunteer means. Record responses on the board.

Have students discuss the qualities and values of a volunteer (e.g., commitment, giving freely of time, energy, labour, perhaps personal resources). Talk about the many roles volunteers take on (helping out; doing things that wouldn't get done; providing special services).

Create a concept map on the board with the students by categorising the different roles of volunteers and groups they may work for. (The handouts for the Middle Primary unit, Joining In, provide several examples of volunteer organisations. Further information can be accessed using the Joining In section of the Stories of Democracy CD-ROM.)

Discuss the concept map and extend the definition of a volunteer. Develop a group definition for the term 'volunteer' and write this on the board.

Explain that the class is going to find out about volunteers who have helped the school in some way. Write on the board:

How do volunteers help our school?

Organise students into small groups. Distribute chart paper to each group and ask groups to think up as many examples of volunteer work at the school as they can. The list may include people who come to the school to:

  • clean up the school
  • help at a tree planting day
  • help with tuckshop duty
  • help students with their reading
  • join the parents' and friends' committee
  • help on excursions
  • help on school camps
  • organise the Safety House Program

Record the students' responses in a class list, eliciting any important omissions. Write the names of the volunteers beside the work they do at the school.

Allocate a school volunteer from the list to each class group. Explain that the group task is to find out more about how these volunteers contribute to the school. Discuss ways they might find the information. For example, visits to or by the volunteer, interviews, letters.

Each group will jointly construct a paragraph of 100–150 words about their volunteer/s and the work they do. This will include a brief description of the steps they used to find out the information. A proforma is available which can be used to record the details.

The information, with a photo if possible, can be used to create a class book and a Web resource to share with others. Completed volunteer profiles can be sent to YourSay@curriculum.edu.au for publication on the Discovering Democracy website.

Follow-up

The United Nations has designated 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers. You may want to build on this classroom activity to develop local events to mark this special year. Ideas for celebrating the achievements of Australians are included in the Primary unit We Remember. Biographies of some significant citizens are available on this website.