Nine 8th grade service learning students at Cedar Ridge Middle School gave parents and community friends the opportunity to “give another birthday, another laugh, another hug, another chance” to accident victims, surgery patients, pre-mature infants, and cancer patients when they held the school’s first ever blood drive last May. The 8-week effort was the first middle school blood drive in Morgan or Lawrence Counties, and one of only a few nationwide, designed as a service learning project. After the students learned about the science of blood and the importance of donating blood, they planned and publicized the event, encouraged other Cedar Ridge students to get involved, and then volunteered at the blood drive
Service learning students attended 4 planning and preparation sessions in which they were introduced to the project, set the goal, decided on a theme, designed a t-shirt, brainstormed ideas, made banners, wrote announcements and a skit, wrote a press release, and heard a presentation on the “science of blood”. Students hung posters around the school, distributed posters to the community, made a presentation to the 5th grade parents’ meeting, and made announcements the week of the blood drive. The day of the blood drive, service learning students helped set up the canteen table, greeted and assisted blood donors, and dressed as “Buddy Blood Drop”.
The Service Learning Class encouraged other youth to get involved. Notes were sent home twice with every Cedar Ridge student, encouraging parents to support the effort and students to compete in recruiting donors. Home & Personal Management students and school hosts and hostesses helped to make the project successful. Austin High School HOSA students partnered with Cedar Ridge, creating and delivering posters to other Decatur City Schools and assisting at the drive.
School-sponsored blood drives are usually held at the high school rather than middle school level. Cedar Ridge Middle School 8th Grade Service Learning students enthusiastically attempting their school’s first blood drive ever. In addition, the blood drive was a service learning project – a first in Morgan or Lawrence Counties and unusual throughout the country. There was no “model” or plan. The students created the project as it progressed.
Although the class met weekly, only 4 one-hour planning and preparation sessions were held over the 8- week period due to Spring Break and other activities. The nine 8th graders in the Cedar Ridge Service Learning Class worked diligently and were successful in their efforts in collecting 82 units of blood to help 246 Alabama hospitals patients. Service Learning is different from other youth service; it is more than “just” volunteering. Service learning is volunteer service that meets real community needs, is coordinated with schools, fosters civic responsibility, is integrated into and enhances curricula, and provides structured time for students to reflect on the service experience. Service Learning is collaboration between schools and agencies, which empowers students by involving them in all aspects of a project, and makes learning interesting.