What is a Healthy Community ?

being revised May 2006
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1   Introduction

This is a social studies project which can be undertaken at any stage from Y1 onwards into adulthood. The basic format of the project is to ask a group of students of similar age level and experience, living in the same community the question What is a Healthy Community.

2   Lesson 1

Have the group brainstorm the idea of what it means for a community, their community to be "healthy", perhaps in the sense "of good heart", "safe", "clean", adequate services such as water, roading etc.

Direct the brainstorming session towards what appears to be several of the key issues. Different age groups will have different perspectives. The very young may be interested in having safe and interesting places to play. Older children may be concerned with a "feeling of neighbourhood" and knowing people and stability of the community. Teenagers may be concerned with specific issues such as housing quality.

When a shortlist of key factors has been assembled ask the students to think about ways that they would measure or quanitfy the health of these aspects of their community. This could be a homework exercise.

HomeworkWrite up a summary of the views expressed in the brainstorming session, and how you personally react to the issues brought up. Of the shortlisted issues, think of ways that you could quantify and measure the level of "health" associated with that issue in your community. This may involve interviewing neighbours or canvasing streets in the neighbourhood.

3   Lesson 2

At the class a week later, review each issue and consider students suggestions for quantifying each issue. Assess which one would be most easy to determine and the reasons why this is so. Explain that the idea of this project is obtain a measure now, and then form some plan of action to "improve" the community and see if the indicator improves. Therefore, not only should the topic be relatively easy to assess, but the group should also formulate some way of improving their community so that their concerns are addressed in the community.

Now the trick with this exercise is that simply attempting such a project may well raise the issue in the community sufficiently for it to be addressed by adults, without the children really having to do anything. This is in itself success, but aim also for the children to form their own action plan so that the improvement can be seen to be a product of their actions.

So the topic to be addressed must be readily quantified, and also be readily actioned, and also have a real meanigful payoff for the children. It may be something like getting a skateboard park, or getting a park drained so it can be used in the winter, or it may be to be on speaking terms with ones neighbours.

Students should take home an approval note to their parents to allow them to take part in the rest of the project, in particular in the surveys. Students can discuss their homework assignment with their parents so that parents understand the issues which may be involved.

HomeworkWrite up a summary of the views expressed and list the pros and cons of each issue. Decide which one you personally would like to do on the basis of the views expressed by the group.

4   Lesson 3

In this class decide by vote which topic is going to be measured and acted on. This could be conducted as a formal meeting with the teacher as chairman, and with formal motions put with seconders and formal discussion. Once the decision is made outline a program for taking the measurement for the chosen topic. Alllocate tasks to the group.

HomeworkEach student does the task allocated and documents the results for the next class. It may be good for students to work in pairs for this part, in order to discuss with each other as they make assessments, any issues that arise about what it is they are doing.

5   Lesson 4-5

The results of the "survey" or whatever, may need to be collated. For younger children (<12) and for any students doing a project like this for the first time it is useful for the collation (summarisation) to be done in the context of a class. This allows everyone to "see" every else's work and involvement. Knowing that the peer group will be making judgements about each students contribution to the project, will help ensure that every student completes their task ready for the class.

It may be that the results returned to the class are inconsistent, that some students misunderstopod what was supposed to be done etc. Allow for an extra week in this slot in case the process has to be redone in order to get consistent assessments throughout the whole class. Making mistakes, recognising them and coming to a common understanding about what is supposed to be done is a normal part of such a project and should not be treated as failure, but rather as an opportunity to learn lessons and new skills.

Homework Write a report on the findings of the survey. Compare the results to what the group thought or felt before the survey, and compare your personal experiences with the results of the survey. Comment on whether you feel the survey adequately reflects the things the group was setting out to measure and change. Review the need to take some action to improve this topic to make for a more healthy community. Sketch out an action plan for the group to follow.

6   Lesson 6

Discuss the action plans that each have written and use these ideas to define a project plan with a timescale and task assignments. The teacher will approve the plan and also obtain any additional approvals required, from the school, parents etc. It would be best if the action plan is completed in 3 weeks.

We cannot expect young children to make major changes in their community by themselves. They rely on others for this. However they can prepare a display to make their concerns known and monitor progress. Failure of the community to listen and act on their concerns arrived at in the context of this exercise would reflect on the students in a profound way. However this is always a possible outcome. One should not shy away from this possible outcome or deflect the project from a topic that may end in failure if it is of concern to the children.

The teacher may have some responsibility to assess who the appropriate audience for this project may be in order to effect change. It may be the local council or a government department or central government. It may be appropriate to address the media in order to effect change. This means that the group is acting in the political arena in the context of school work. This in itself is a subject which many may raise for debate. The answer is simple. A democratic governemnt can only work if the population undertands and can properly use the processes of democracy. That is precisely what this exercise is teaching (among a lot of other things). And what can democracy be, if not a means to allow poeple to actively improve their lives and the communities they live in.

Homework Do the allocated project tasks.

7   Lesson 7-8

In each class review progress and make adjustments to the project plan. At each class reconsider whether to continue with the project.

Homework Do the allocated project tasks.

8   Lesson 9

This being the nominal end of the project review the completion of the project, compared to what the students had originally hoped for. Was the project a successful implementation of their plan as far as they were concerned? If not, what things could they have done to make the implementation better. THis may sound like a negative bit of navel gazing, but others attempting similar projects in other areas may be able to learn from this groups experiences.

Determine an appropriate time to repeat the "measure" performed as Lesson 3 homework. It is now maybe 6 weeks later and there may well be an observable difference. Defer taking this measure only if it known that the main improvement is at a specific time in the future, for instance, the council may upgrade some facilities in a few months time. Make a time to do the measure again at a point in time when the group feels the full effect of its plan should have born fruit.

Homework Perform the measure again as for Lesson 3.

9   Lesson 10 Summarise

Summarise the measure and determine any change in it. Write a class summary of the whole project. This may involve dividing the task into various parts and in corporating homework of various students from previous lessons into a general report.

One way to frame this report is to present it as a report to webscool, to be published here, on how the groups attempt to do this project worked out. The difficulties encountered, warnings about pitfalls, recommendations of things to avoid and so on. Make it as complete as possible so that others attempting this project get a feeling for what is involved and how others came to change their community for the better.

10   Project Examples

Life on the Streets

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