Advocates for Children

Advocacy Projects Focus Group
Freshmen Colloquium, Spring, 2000

Advocacy Projects are those efforts designed to address matters that are crucial to the well-being of children. It is the aim of such projects to bring about change through working directly with children, through influencing others to make changes to benefit children, and/or through educating and informing others in order that they might understand children's issues and advocate for children.

Advocacy Projects are distinguished from service-learning activities in that students in this focus group will be expected to create a new program or service rather than simply participating in an existing one. Service in an existing program is not an Advocacy Project unless one creates a new service in that program or develops a program where none existed. Using or extending an approach used by others to a new group may also be an Advocacy Project.

The term "children" refers to those persons yet unborn to those reaching the legal age of 18 years. Everything that affects the quality of life on this earth affects the well-being of children.

Students choosing to do an Advocacy Project could work alone or with a group of several other students (the number depending on the nature of the project). The student(s) would identify an issue or concern, decide how best to address the matter, and work to effect a change.

Identifying Issues

The following five categories may help in your thinking about matters affecting children: health, safety, education, economic well-being, and child development (referring to an understanding of the nature of children, their characteristics, their needs and history, etc.). For a list of possible specific topics within these five categories, see the "Research focus group" page.

Possible issues for advocacy projects may also be found in the report of the Children's Defense Fund (Feb. 1999) which listed legislation before the U.S. Senate: child care quality improvements, after-school programs, school dropout prevention, food stamp eligibility for legal immigrants, state child care block grants, education for parents receiving welfare and higher wages to support families, juvenile crime prevention funding, minimum wage for working families, and human services funding.

Addressing the Issues

There are many different approaches, arenas, or settings in which one could advocate for children, locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally. The focus for the Advocacy Project should be the creation or development of some service or action to benefit children, either directly or indirectly. The benefits to children may be immediate, or the benefits may be less certain and take awhile to realize.

Some examples where Advocacy Projects might be initiated are: schools, social services, community agencies, legislative bodies, media, clinics, embassies, government agencies, the campus, private organizations, public service groups.

It seems that much could be done on this campus to make students and others aware of the needs of children. For example, distributing handouts, formal or informal presentations, or setting up informational booths or tables.

Some students may want to consider dramatic or artistic presentations depicting children's issues, present or historical, including slavery, the Holocaust, and incidents or eras in the history of various countries.


Proposal: A typed, one-page proposal is due on or before February 21. The proposal should contain as much detail as possible regarding the nature of the project: what you plan to do, the target group you plan to reach, how you will evaluate the success of your project, the names of the group members if applicable, and any problems you anticipate.... Contact Al Gardner with any concerns (301-314-2814 or 301-314-5909). Only one proposal is due from a group.

Final Report: A typed, three-page report is required from each student summarizing his/her activities in the project, including the planning, implementation, and results of the project. Each member of a group is expected to submit an individual report. You are advised to keep a journal, diary, or notes of your efforts in preparation for the final report. The report is due on or before May 8.

Presentation: Individuals and groups will present their projects to others in the colloquium on May 8 or 15.

Students are encouraged to present their projects at the Undergraduate Conference on Research, Performance and Practice, a campus-wide event, on April 26. The conference is open to a wide variety of student work; proposals are due on March 3.

It is possible that there might be some coordination among the three groups ("Advocacy Projects," "Research," and "Service-Learning") in pursuing our objectives this semester.

Questions or comments always welcome! Contact: Al Gardner.

First-year Syllabus

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