Why I Serve

9, 10, 11, 12

Using the radio broadcast "This I Believe" as a model, students create visual or audio statements of their beliefs about volunteering and serving. Each presentation communicates the culture, experiences, and motivations that influence the learner's attitude about service. After presenting their statements to the class, the learners discuss how to use the presentations as a form of advocacy to promote civic engagement in the community. This lesson incorporates reflection and a demonstration to a wider audience.

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods, Plus time to carry out service-learning project

The learner will:

  • create and present a visual/audio mission statement that expresses "Why I Serve."
  • view the presentations of all of the learners.
  • publish the "Why I Serve" presentations as an act of advocacy/motivation to a wider audience.
  • reflect on the impact of the project.
  • share the results of the project with families and the community.
  • Each student brings a completed copy of Handout Three: Personal Mission Statement from Lesson Two.
  • Internet access and speakers to play audio file from computer: NPR radio show "This I Believe."
  • copy of Handout One: Why I Serve Rubric for each student
  • various equipment/supplies for audio/visual project based on available resources (e.g., Flip video, audio recording device, cell phone with video capability, computers, paper, markers, etc.)
  • Optional: copy of Handout Two: Project Plans for each service-project group or for whole-group planning
Teacher Preparation 

For the beginning of Day One, choose an appropriate essay on NPR's "This I Believe"  https://www.npr.org/series/4538138/this-i-believe Teacher Note: Browse the current and 1950's stories on the This I Believe site to find stories of service, giving, and dedication to public service. Preview the essays before sharing with students since the essays are intended for an adult audience. Suggestion: "Life Is an Act of Literary Criticism" by Luis Urrea: https://www.npr.org/2009/04/23/103362391/life-is-an-act-of-literary-creation



Choose from the following written reflection activities.
• Have the students revisit their mission statements that they wrote in Lesson Two. After their experiences with community members and seeing the impact of their advocacy, they may be ready to adjust their personal mission statements to reflect new perspectives.
• Have learners write a descriptive essay about the service-learning project. They describe the project from beginning to end, including personal reflections on cultural influences and contributions to the community.  


Pathfinder Middle School Pledge video  https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLEAGUEMichigan

NPR. "This I Believe"  https://www.npr.org/series/4538138/this-i-believe 

Scholastic. "Tech How To: Podcasts" http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3752278 [no longer available] 


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set

    Play an audio clip of a "This I Believe" episode. See Teacher Preparation. Have the students pair up with another student to discuss and identify the central belief statement of the episode. Encourage students to share their statements with the group. Discuss details from the audio clip that support that person's central statement.

  2. Introduce the presentation project. Each learner will develop a 3-minute video/audio (or other format approved by the teacher) presentation that shares his or her belief about service--"Why I Serve." The presentation will also include supporting information about the author, such as cultural background, personal experience, and motivations. Discuss expections and due date for the project. See Handout One: Why I Serve Rubric.

  3. Allow students to get started planning and working. They may work together, but each student creates a separate presentation.

  4. Days Two and Three (when presentations are complete):

  5. View completed student presentations with the whole class. After each presentation, reflect on the central thesis.

  6. Discuss how these presentations can act as messages of advocacy to connect people and make the world a better place. Guide the students to take action to share their visions with a wider and appropriate audience.

  7. Next Steps:

  8. Continue to reflect and guide the students as they publish their "Why I Serve" presentations. Help them find venues, community partners, and publishing options. Have the learners collect data and measure impact, if available. After the presentations are public, have each student write a reflection about their learning.

  9. Work with the learners to design an appropriate demonstration to a group of students, families, and/or community members. The demonstration includes showing the students' presentations and communicating the impact the learners have made on themselves and others.

  10. Reflect and make plans for the next steps. Brainstorm with the students a variety of head gear types: sombrero, knitted cap, chef hat, baseball cap, Indiana Jones hat, straw hat, football helmet, bike helmet, etc. Pick out four or five diverse styles and write one on each of four or five sheets of paper. Hang up the hat styles around the room.Tell the students they are going to choose a hat style that symbolically represents their approach to taking the next step in their "Why I Serve" presentations. Have them stand by that hat style. Once they are there, they discuss with the others who chose that hat style why that hat style suits their next steps. After ten minutes, debrief with the whole class.

  11. Optional Extension: Discuss similarities and differences between the students'"Why I Serve" project themes. As students compare and contrast the different perspectives, have them organize the project themes to find common goals and a vision for a whole-group service project. Or you may group students by similar interests or motivations for smaller service-learning projects. See Extensions for developing this into a student-led service-learning project.


See Handout One: Why I Serve Rubric for assessing student presentations.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners create a presentation that expresses their personal mission related to service. They determine an appropriate place to "publish" their presentation to encourage others to take action for the common good. Optional Extended Service-Learning Project: Discuss similarities and differences between the students'"Why I Serve" project themes. As students compare and contrast the different perspectives, have them organize the project themes to find common goals and a vision for a whole-group service project. Or you may group students by similar interests or motivations for smaller service-learning projects.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.