What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is education in action — a way for youth to gain knowledge and develop skills while meeting real community needs. After identifying and examining local issues, students agree on a plan, take action, and evaluate results.
Service-learning enables students to make a difference in their community at any age or ability level. The following examples are all based on actual service-learning experiences:
- Pre-kindergarten students can visit a local nursing home every week to perform songs and dances that reflect the patients’ cultural traditions.
- Third graders can create a community garden to provide vegetables for low-income senior citizens.
- Fourth graders can develop planning and problem-solving skills while designing and implementing a plan to conserve environmental resources.
- Sixth graders can design wheelchair accessible ramps and make a presentation to the city council about the importance of accessibility.
- Eighth graders can learn about the Korean War by interviewing local veterans and create a biographical book to give back to the veteran.
- High school Spanish students can improve their fluency by becoming pen-pals with bilingual fourth-grade students — who in turn can bolster their language skills by writing back in English.
- High school seniors can develop a public service announcement for a teen crisis hotline.
Although service-learning has many definitions and established quality standards, service-learning experiences share five major attributes:
- Students have a strong voice in determining the actions they want to take and in implementing their plans.
- Service-learning is aligned with the curriculum.
- Students partner with others to take action.
- Students reflect on their experiences in multiple ways before, during, and after performing the service.
- Service-learning is of sufficient duration to allow students to meet community needs and also achieve learning objectives.