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Levels of Service-Learning

February 4th, 2013

When evaluating possible projects, it’s wise to start simple, build upon your success, and pace your group with a variety of different types of projects. You can categorize projects as “crawl,” “walk,” or “run”—a concept adapted from the YMCA Earth Service Corps program. Crawl projects are great for a group that will be together only or a short while or for a new group. Walk and run projects involve more planning and coordination and should be done when your group is ready for a bigger challenge or a long-term project.


Crawl projects

Crawl projects are projects that can be done quickly and easily and show immediate results. They can be done in one day and require some planning and organization, but not much. Basically, people should be able to easily show up and participate in a crawl project and be able to contribute. Crawl projects are excellent motivators and are a great way to recruit new participants. The most common type of crawl project is the cleanup of a park, school grounds, a beach, and so on. Cleanups can involve a large group of people and definitely leave a visible impact on an area. Crawl projects should be fun and should really make folks feel like they’ve made a difference.


Walk projects

Walk projects are more complex but still have clear, visible outcomes. Walk projects might take a few days to actually complete and require more leadership, planning and evaluation. These projects tend to require more involvement on the part of a group and that a larger number of participants take on leadership roles. Examples of successful walk projects include organizing a safety presentation for an elementary school, planning a canned-food drive and competition or working with local artists to create park benches with mosaics on them.


Run projects

Starting a program that refurbishes used bicycles and donates them to low-income neighbors in combination with bike safety lessons is a run project. These projects involve a great deal of organization, collaboration, follow-up and evaluation along the way so that people can see progress. Run projects might take weeks to organize and often involve a long-term commitment. It’s important to remember that run projects will take a lot of a group’s energy, time and resources. The outcome you are trying to reach is important but remember to focus on the process: How well are you working together as a group? Does everyone have a role and a way to contribute? Is the goal clear? These are the types of questions you’ll need to ask as you take on a run project


This is an excerpt from our free service-learning curriculum, Seasons of Service.  You can download a copy of the entire curriculum at

Or if you’d like us to come lead your staff or youth through a train-the-trainer of the Seasons of Service curriculum or another workshop on service-learning, contact us at




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