Stage 1 - Investigate

The journey of service-learning begins the way you begin many things: you investigate. What do you investigate? First, you investigate the resources that you bring to helping this planet—your interests, skills, and talents. Then, you investigate the needs in your community related to oceans and waterways.

Investigating your Skills and Talents!

As you begin to learn more about the community issue, also find out the skills and talents of all the members of your group (or if going solo, think about your own). Take a Personal Inventory by interviewing each other about your interests, skills, and talents. Make a list. Refer to this list as you organize into action teams and plan your cleanup. Does someone like to write? Great for putting together a press release. Any photographers? Needed for documentation. Any shoppers? Excellent for getting the best prices on materials. Find a Personal Inventory document in the Stage 1 Worksheets & Documents box to the right.

Gathering Information about the Need

What community need interests you? Start a list and then discuss with others. Next, find out more through action research. Use different methods to authenticate what is really going on.


Do you have a book that will provide an overview of the topic? Any film that gives you a close-up view of the problem? What websites will have local information about your waterways? What newspapers cover local environmental issues?


What organizations study the issue you are most interested in? What groups in your area offer programs or services related to this issue? Who could you interview to learn more?


A community survey can help you quickly find out what concerns your community and how others may be willing to help. A few basic questions and you are ready to go!


Field trip! Where can you go, or send a few delegates, to capture the information you need? Perhaps a visit to a local stream will show you the area with trash left from local use or a beach walk can help you notice the quantity of trash that is there and how many people are needed to help.

We already know the oceans and waterways need our help. Investigating the issue helps you find what exactly is needed in your area and helps you plan what you can do about this. You will find a planning tool that helps you investigate by Gathering Information About a Community Need in the Stage 1 Worksheets & Documents box to the right.

CITATION: From The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action (Revised & Updated Second Edition) by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., copyright © 2010. Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; This page may be reproduced for use within an individual school or district. For all other uses, contact