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|What is Service-Learning|
What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic and civic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.
Service-learning is a type of experiential and project-based learning that drives students’ academic interests and passions toward addressing real community needs. The process is a learner-centered cycle of inquiry, compelling young people to answer questions such as:
· What are the true needs in my community?
· What are the root causes of these needs?
· How, where, and from whom can I learn more?
· How can I contribute to a solution?
Picking up trash on a river bank is service.
Studying water samples under a microscope is learning.
When science students collect and analyze water samples, document their results, and present findings to a local pollution control agency – that is service-learning.
With so much concern about how to go back to school safely during the pandemic, service-learning taps into the time-honored tradition of learning at home, outdoors, and in the community — with the support of a variety of adults.
As Stanford education professor and California State Board of Education president Linda Darling-Hammond noted in a July article in EducationDive, schools that are successful are "connecting lessons to real world applications, allowing students to explore the world around them.”“A Republic (Still) at Risk- and Civics is Part of the Solution” published in 2017 acknowledges . (The list further includes student voice in schools, and student-led voluntary associations).
In 2019, a group of foundations convened a project study our nation’s capacity to create citizens who are “[W]e need to fundamentally rethink and enrich the ways we prepare young people to be successful citizens in a democracy… to imagine a lifetime of civic learning and practice.” Service-learning fits squarely within the civic learning eco-system, supporting the shift of focus from merely direct Civics education in one high school class to beyond classrooms in K-12 schools, and beyond schools to community organizations and post-secondary institutions.
In “” issued last month (May 2020), the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service—a bi-partisan commission completing two and a half years of extensive research—concluded with a compelling call to revitalize civic education and over the next 10 years. They recognize these as key factors to ensure young people are fully prepared to participate in civic life and understand the importance of service.
When Can Service-Learning Happen?
Since service-learning is often done outside of school, it is highly flexible. In these times of hybrid models, online learning, and busy working families, service-learning is especially well-suited to helping bridge the gulf between online, in-school and afterschool learning.
What makes it work?Successful service-learning is a multifaceted teaching and learning process. Though each service-learning project is uniquely tailored to meet specific learning goals and community needs, several elements are critical for success. These elements are the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. Go deeper with the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice.
Access our Virtual Briefcases - links to resources, documents, videos, and webinars on how to enhance your service-learning practice.
What does it look like in K-12?
Successful service-learning projects are tied to specific learning objectives, and many of the best are tied to numerous areas of study. For example, when seventh- and eighth-graders studied the historical significance of a local river, they developed projects to build nature trails, tested water samples, documented contamination of the local habitat, and restored historical sites. Their teachers connected those activities to studies in earth science, mathematics, language arts, physical education, music, visual arts, and social studies. These connections not only deepened the impact projects had on learning, but also provided the young people with a broader understanding of how different subjects are interrelated. Through a student-centered inquiry model known as IPARD — an acronym for Investigation, Planning and Preparation, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration — this process is broken down into a step-by-step framework.