Day of Service

About The Corps Network National Great Outdoors Day of Service

How Serving Outdoors Changed My Life

This story was written by Graciela Billingsley

As the bright sun begins to set, the familiar sounds begin to strum together perfectly as if it were an orchestra calming my body; calming my soul. The night is filled with the sound of bugs, wild wolves and streams flowing. After team dinner is made, shared and eaten, my team discusses all things under the sun –work, politics, religion, philosophy and the occasional POOP jokes—you name it, nothing is left unsaid. What else are you going to do, when you are deep backcountry camping and working with the same young adults the whole summer?

As I crawl into my tent at night I find that my legs are sore, my hair is a greasy mixture of sweat and dirt and my eyes are tired as I read the last chapter of my book. This time last summer I would have been experiencing nights like this as a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps member in Colorado. You ask this suburban native girl- first time camper, if she would change a single thing about last summer? The answer is absolutely not.

As an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps member I came into Rocky Mountain Youth Corps expecting to work hard and serve as an environmental steward in Colorado but I never expected to gain as much as I did out of the program. I worked with a group of people who labored to make sure the jobs got done no matter how intimidating the day seemed to get. I befriended these people, my team, and I found myself, in those Colorado Mountains. I am not saying environmental stewardship or being a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps member is a walk in the park but I am saying that it is worth it. Day in and day out last summer, we worked together to conserve the environment through a variety of projects; trail beautification, creation of trails, creation of picnic tables, rock barriers and many other projects! Camping the whole time last summer taught me that we are here to protect the environment and in return ourselves and that is where true beauty lays.

Here is a poem I wrote because I was so inspired by this experience:

We surrender to the beauty,

Her unashamed relentless graces,

The water hits her face as if

She is the canvas,

Roaring tides on either side,

But deep down in her bones

She understands it is her that

Keeps the land concealed, protected and guarded

Mystifying colors all around

Bring us to our knees

As cascading tears fall from her eyes,

The ripe decisions of life, questions

That life was meant for far more

She loves these moments, when

She comes alive

Take heart she softly sings to us all

We may be startled she whispers

In our ears – but this is where the wild, wonderful and beautiful reign.

Because of all that I experienced last summer, I know I do not want to stop working hard, whether I’m camping everyday or not. I pushed myself that summer and grew because of the experience. My service experience was unforgettable.

That is why I am looking forward to The Corps Network 2nd Annual Day of Service on June 18, 2015. It is going to be an amazing day to get to experience serving with likeminded individuals from all over the country to better our communities and therefore our nation- a true walk in the park!

 

Boiler Plate: 
As the bright sun begins to set, the familiar sounds begin to strum together perfectly as if it were an orchestra calming my body; calming my soul. The night is filled with the sound of bugs, wild wolves and streams flowing. After team dinner is made, shared and eaten, my team discusses all things under the sun –work, politics, religion, philosophy and the occasional POOP jokes—you name it, nothing is left unsaid. What else are you going to do, when you are deep backcountry camping and working with the same young adults the whole summer?

Four Ways to Make Hard Work and Service More Fun

By John Griffith and featuring California Conservation Corps member, Zach DeJoe

Many people believe that while hard work and service have great intrinsic value, they don’t leave much room for fun. I disagree. Fun includes things like joyful purpose, awe-ha moments, magnificent mood magnifiers, and choreographed acts of celebration. In fact, these elements of fun are actually essential to a successful service project.  Here is how to put them into practice on June 19th during your Great Outdoors Month Day of Service to keep your participants’ morale and productivity at an optimum level.

1) Joyful Purpose: Understand and share your project’s story.

Individuals are more receptive to experiencing fun at work if they feel that the project they are engaged in is meaningful. So in addition to making sure that everyone understands the safety considerations, because getting injured isn’t fun, be sure to tell your project’s story. For example, as a crew supervisor in the California Conservation Corps (CCC), I frequently take young adults to the beach where we spend all day removing invasive European beach grass from sand dunes. If I left the explanation of our project as, “we’re here to pull grass,” the work would quickly be perceived as a “boring waste of time” and “sucks.” Smiles would become rarer and sighs would become more common. Instead, I point out (or show a picture of) a small, endangered bird called a snowy plover, and describe how predators are taking advantage of the cover that the invasive grass provides to ambush and gobble up snowy plover chicks. Suddenly grass-pulling has a meaningful and motivating purpose. Once the crew understands that they are helping to save an endangered species (and cute baby endangered species, at that!) the “grass pulling” takes on a joyful purpose and everyone becomes more receptive to fun—and more productive. You may not have something as cool as a fluffy baby plover chick to illuminate your project’s joyful purpose, but always take the time to make sure that you and all the other participants understand why you are doing the project and who and/or what is positively impacted by the outcome of your collective effort.  

2) Awe-ha Moments: Taking time to explore worksite discoveries.

Awe-ha moments are seldom planned and should never be ignored. These instances are stumbled upon while working and are able to invoke a sense of belonging to something more vast than routine life. When experienced as a group, awe-ha moments provide a bonding opportunity that can lead to excitement and therefore more fun. They can bring disparate members together and make it easier for the group to coalesce into a team. In fact, Dacher Ketner, a University of California professor who researches the feeling of awe says that, “brief experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective and orient our actions toward interest of others.”

Lucky for us, awe-ha moments are awaiting discovery all over a project site! We just have to be committed to exploring their mysteries. We have to choose to be present when they present themselves. Awe-ha moments are the baby hummingbirds peeking over the rim of the nest that was discovered in a bush while weeding the community garden, the yellow-spotted black salamander found while moving the log off the trail, the strange creature washed ashore and gently poked during the beach cleanup, and the bright red flower resisting the pavement by blooming through a crack in the parking lot of the school that you’re renovating. Most awe-ha moments are from the natural world, and frequently experienced in the middle of the city. Taking time to share in the wonder of these discoveries will increase both the levels of fun and productivity of your participants.

3) Magnificent Mood Magnifiers: Bring snacks, drinks, and music. By Zach DeJoe

Hello, this is Zach DeJoe, a Corpsmember on John Griffith’s crew. I’m jumping in on his article to give the Millennial perspective on how to have fun with Magnificent Mood Magnifiers (MMM’s). MMM’s are little interjections into your Great Outdoors Day of Service that have the ability to change the flavor and rhythm of your time together. Let’s start with flavor. While in the CCC, corps members are responsible for bringing their own food to work, but volunteers may have arrived to your Day of Service assuming that food was going to be provided. Or, there may be volunteers coming from areas where quality food isn’t readily accessible—food deserts are common in some areas of our nation. By making sure your Day of Service project includes healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, yogurt, and of course, water for hydration, participants may avoid occurrences of fatigue, reduce episodes of low blood sugar, or worse. It is much easier to have fun when you’re energized with food and fully hydrated. And anyone snacking on what you bring will consider you to be pretty cool.

Over the course of the day, you might want a little something more than snacks to lift your spirits. Listening to music just may be the best pick-me-up tool at our disposal. When asked what could make service work more enjoyable, our CCC crew unanimously—and all at once—proclaimed the gift of music as the answer. Not only has music been scientifically shown to boost physical performance and increase endurance, it has also been proven to reduce stress, elevate mood, and reduce anxiety. And these are just some of the beneficial effects music can have on both our bodies and minds. When deciding on what sort of music to play during a day of service, it is important to choose something that won’t offend your fellow volunteers or the community, probably something more mainstream. Basically what you want is something upbeat and positive that is suitable for your crew. Working with a bunch of 20-somethings may require something very different from working with a crew that may be a bit more long in the tooth. Balancing your Pharell with your Conway Twitty may be a difficult task, but it’s worth the effort when having more fun is the goal.

4) Choreographed Acts of Celebration: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Lunch breaks are not just for eating anymore. They are also for dancing. Dancing can add way, way, way more fun to your Great Outdoors Day of Service. A choreographed dance that is easy to learn is guaranteed to raise morale. In 2014, I was invited to present at the National Geographic Bioblitz Event in Golden Gate National Parks. Since there were no specific details about what my presentation was supposed to include, I created a dance, taught it to some CCC youth, and we performed it onstage at the event. Since then I have received Bioblitz Dance video responses from all over the world. Recently, over three days’ worth of lunch breaks, I taught the dance to my current crew during a week that we were restoring the coastal dunes AKA “grass pulling.” Like I mentioned earlier, grass pulling can be perceived as monotonous after a couple days, and while the cute baby plover chick story helps, some projects just need a couple dance moves. And the lunchtime-dance breaks definitely did their job. During the practices, I saw every Corpsmember smile. I heard every Corpsmember laugh. And the fun from those lunch-time practices spilled into the working hours. Everyone agreed that it made the project a lot more fun. This has been my experience every time that I’ve taught a group of people the Bioblitz Dance. They laugh and smile through the practice sessions and feel more connected to one another by the time their moves are in sync. I invite you to do the Bioblitz Dance during your Day of Service. Visit my Youtube channel to learn from the tutorial videos and watch the dozens of other Bioblitz Dance video responses from all over the world. https://www.youtube.com/user/TotemMagicGoingMAD 

In addition to joyful purpose, awe-ha moments, magnificent mood magnifiers, and choreographed acts of celebration, there are a range of things that you can do to add fun to your Great Outdoors Day of Service. From starting with an icebreaker activity, to playing an inclusive game, to some friendly work competition, to a closing circle where the participants express gratitude for one another and the collective mission, your fun potential is realized by your willingness to be creative.

Be very mindful that regardless of how hard the work is or what kind of project you are doing on your Day of Service, fun arises naturally from a group with a high morale. A quick search on the Internet will reveal numerous studies proving that high workplace morale also leads to more production and less accidents. Morale is highest in a group where participants feel respected, welcomed, and included. So start the fun happening just by giving everyone a welcoming, “hello.”  And then move forward with some joyful purpose, awe-ha moments, magnificent mood magnifiers, and choreographed acts of celebration. By applying these techniques everyone will realize and appreciate that making the world a better place doesn’t just require a bunch of hard work, it is also provides opportunities to have a lot of fun.

Boiler Plate: 
Many people believe that while hard work and service have great intrinsic value, they don’t leave much room for fun. I disagree. Fun includes things like joyful purpose, awe-ha moments, magnificent mood magnifiers, and choreographed acts of celebration. In fact, these elements of fun are actually essential to a successful service project. Here is how to put them into practice on June 19th during your Great Outdoors Month Day of Service to keep your participants’ morale and productivity at an optimum level.

Protecting an Island that Honors America's "Conservation President:" A Corps Network Day of Service Project


Photo Credit: Ted on Flickr


While The Corps Network's 2nd Annual Day of Service will begin on Friday at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, a service project to remove invasive plants will take place at an important National Park Service site named for one of the other famous Roosevelts: Theodore. 

Sometimes referred to as the conservation president, Theodore Roosevelt left behind a massive legacy as a conservationist. According to the National Park Service, "after he became President in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency,Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land."


Located just outside of Washington DC, Theodore Roosevelt Island and the memorials on it serve to honor Theodore Roosevelt's passion for the outdoors and desire to protect nature (there is also a national park in North Dakota that honors his legacy). Before the Island was in his name, it was originally called Mason’s Island and had quite a vast amount of vegetation for the small size, which was about 90 acres. In the 1930’s, the Theodore Roosevelt Administration asked architects to transform it from neglected and overgrown farmland to mimic the original natural forest that was probably on the island (see proposed designs here).

After selecting a design made by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the Civilian Conservation Corps (shown right) implemented the plan. Today the island has miles of trails through wooded uplands and swampy floors. Near the center of the island, where all the trails interconnect, there is a 17 foot tall statue of Roosevelt with pillars with quotes from Roosevelt about nature and conservation.


Unfortunately, Theodore Roosevelt Island now has an abundance of non-native plants. The service project that participants will complete on Friday will help address this problem and keep Theodore Roosevelt's island memorial intact in line with the original work done by the CCC. You can learn more about Theodore Roosevelt Island on the National Park Service's website.

Boiler Plate: 
While The Corps Network's 2nd Annual Day of Service will begin on Friday at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, a service project to remove invasive plants will take place at an important National Park Service site named for one of the other famous Roosevelts: Theodore.

Protecting America's First Urban National Park from English Ivy: A Corps Network Day of Service Project

Photo by Trail Force on Flickr

As part of The Corps Network’s second annual Day of Service in the Nation’s Capital, participants will take on a service project in the Rock Creek Park. Established as the third U.S. national park in 1890, this year the park celebrates its 125th anniversary. Beloved by Washingtonians, the park traverses over 1754 acres and abutts the National Zoo and features winding paths, lush forests, and beautiful bridges.

English Ivy (shown in a National Park Service photo to the right) is an invasive plant species and poses a threat to the integrity of the park's ecosystem. The ivy plants can reach a length of over 100 feet and can invade woodlands, fields, and other upland areas. This means they can grow along the ground where they can disrupt the lifecycle of understory species. Ivy plants are also capable of growing up into the tree canopy and branches, which kills the trees slowly.

The Service project will mobilize volunteers to help deter the growth of this overwhelming invasive plant. By helping to save the trees and understory species of the park, it will preserve the natural beauty of the park and the benefits it provides to Washington, such as helping to clean the water and air.

Interesting Fun Facts about Rock Creek Park:

  • Three kinds of Owl’s make their homes in Rock Creek Park: the great horned owl, the barred owl and the little screech owl.
     
  • Rock Creek Park is the only park in the National Park System with a planetarium. It was built in 1960 and is located in the Rock Creek Park Nature Center at 5200 Glover Rd., NW, Washington, DC

You can learn more about Rock Creek Park on the National Park Service's website.

Media Advisory: Modern Civilian Conservation Corps Programs Traveling to Washington to Highlight Power of Environmental Service

Diversity of Corpsmembers represents effort to engage youth from communities of color and all economic and educational levels in con

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial—A Symbolic Place to Launch The Corps Network’s Day of Service

As part of national Great Outdoors Month, The Corps Network’s will host its 2nd Annual Day of Service in the Nation’s Capital. Among this year's service opportunities, volunteers will help complete a painting project at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. This site was selected for the Day of Service kick-off event because of its relevance to the Service and Conservation Corps of today.

In 1933, President Roosevelt helped launch the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of his New Deal programs. The CCC help provide unemployed young men and their families with a source of income, as they worked together and built and enhanced much of America’s conservation infrastructure in places like national parks. Today Corps continue this legacy, viewing the CCC as their origin story. For those who can are history buffs or just curious, you can read more here about the progression of the Corps Movement.

What’s Cool about the Memorial and Why are Waterfalls Involved?

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial includes a variety of unique statues, waterfalls, and granite pillars with quotes that showcase FDR’s influence as a President during a time of great challenges and transition for the United States. One of the pillars shares a quote about the purpose of the Civilian Conservation Corps: “I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to be used in simple work...More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work.”

Here are a few additional fun facts from the National Park Service’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial webpage:

  • “The FDR Memorial on the National Mall is the second FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. The first one was built just the way Roosevelt wanted: a marble block no larger than his desk. The memorial stone stands on the northwest grounds of the National Archives Building, facing the U.S. Navy Memorial.”
     
  • “At seven and a half acres, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is the largest presidential memorial on the National Mall.”
     
  • “The waterfalls throughout the memorial are there for several reasons. First, they are symbolic of FDR’s connection to and love of water (he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I). Second, they block out some of the noise from the airport located directly across the Potomac River.”

Additional information about The Corps Network’s Great Outdoors Month Day of Service in the Nation’s Capital can be found here.

The Corps Network to Host 2nd Annual Day of Service in the Nation’s Capital

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, June 19th, The Corps Network will lead its 2nd Annual Day of Service in the Nation’s Capital as part of national Great Outdoors Month.