Service learning makes kids better students and citizens

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Student Grace Haak uses her math skills to sell crafts to raise money for charity. (Source: 3TV) Student Grace Haak uses her math skills to sell crafts to raise money for charity. (Source: 3TV)

If you want your children to perform better in school, try doing something with them outside the classroom. It is a good way for kids to improve their grades and make themselves better members of their communities.

It is a lesson seventh-grader Grace Haak is already learning at St. Francis Xavier School in Phoenix. She makes and sells craft items for charity.

"I made these duct tape bookmarks and they clip onto books like that," she said, demonstrating. "I also made these pens using all different kinds of colors."

At St. Francis Xavier, learning doesn't stop when kids leave the classroom," campus minister, Deborah Westerfield said. "One of our student learning expectations is to be committed to doing justice."

That means kids take classroom subjects and apply them to real-life situations.

In Grace's case, math skills are key.

"I had to know how much each jar was, how much the cost of the scrub was, and I had to add it all up and then divide it and then see if I can make a profit," she explained.

Her profits benefit The Andre House, which ministers to the poor and homeless here in Arizona.

ASU professor Deborah Ball says outside-of-classroom learning has proven effects.

"Kids who have more hours of experience outside of the classroom do better in school," she said.

Ball says the supplemental learning doesn't have to cost a lot of money. A simple trip to the zoo or the library can make a difference if parents ask the right questions.

How does this connect to your class? Have you learned about this in school? What type of math would you use in this situation? Let's read a little bit about where you're going. "These are the types of things any parent, no matter what their education level is, can help facilitate with their kids," Ball explained.

Grace found a way to make math fun and meaningful.

"In class, it can be a little boring with all these numbers and stuff," she said. "When you actually get the chance to make something, you're still learning about budgeting and using your money wisely, but it's more hands-on and a little bit more productive."

Lessons like these are what kids will carry with them long after they leave school.

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