Stage 3 – Act

Once you have investigated your interests, skills, and community needs, and are prepared with community partners who can help, you are ready to create and carry out a plan to act.

Action typically occurs as direct service, indirect service, advocacy, research, or a combination of several of these approaches. As you plan your action, be sure to notify people of influence, from a school principal to a local city council member. Get them involved and let your voice and actions be heard!

Direct Service:

Your service involves face-to-face interactions or close contact with people, animals, or the environment—such as rivers, lakes, oceans, or any part of the watershed that is near you. This can look like installing energy efficient light bulbs for elders who need assistance or removing harmful exotic plants growing along a stream.

Indirect Service:

Your action is not seen by the people or animals that may benefit, though what you do meets a real need. You might improve an organization’s website and help them with a social media plan to attract more volunteers, or collect blankets and towels for a wildlife rehabilitation center.


What you do makes others aware of an issue and encourages them to take action to change a situation. This may be a media campaign about the health and ecological benefits of reusable water bottles, or creating school kits to protect the Texas longhorn lizard. Sometimes advocacy campaigns lead to actually introducing or changing local policy.


You gather and report on information that helps a community. By analyzing the trash collected during a beach cleanup, you might discover that the plastic straws sold at the food stand are being trashed…in the sand. This information can lead to a ban of plastic straws from being sold at the beach.

Every one of these action ideas have been generated by youth, and every one of these ideas met real needs they had identified. Did it take planning? And creativity? And dedication? Yes! And was it worth every bit of effort and time spent? Of course! How did they know change happened? They kept track. Use the Progress Monitoring document to—you guessed it— monitor your progress! Vary your actions, and see how all the change you make can be sustained.

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,