Service learning is a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Effective service learning engages students not only in doing a project, but in reflection about what they experienced, what public policies were involved, how the community was benefited, and what was learned. (Adapted from the National Commission on Service Learning Definition.)
Service Learning should:
- Serve a genuine community need.
- Integrate content learning and teaching objectives with the service-learning activities.
- Provide activities to engage students in reflection about the service experience and the achievement of learning outcomes.
- Plan the service details through a Student Learning Plan.
- Complete feedback forms on the value and effectiveness of the service-learning experience from the perspective of the student, faculty instructor, and the community agency or program served.
To create the most effective service learning experience for students, teachers should provide a description of the service-learning component of their class in a syllabus or course description. It should be clear whether service learning is a required component of the course or not and what percentage of the grade the service learning component comprises.
One of the ways to build positive connections with parents and the community for a service learning is to connect it to holidays and events that they know such as Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning, Make a Difference Day, Earth Day, or Project Citizen Showcases.
The following websites were selected to help teachers plan for a service learning program in their classrooms.
Service Learning Resources
Connecting with Your Local Community Through Service Learning
Service-learning provides the mechanism for young people to see the value of service to their
community while developing tangible connections to classroom learning. Unlike community
service, which is often unrelated to academic content, service-learning is seen as an instructional
strategy that inspires young people to learn about and serve their communities through
experiences directly tied to their school curriculum. Learn more at this site by Michelle Herczog, L.A. County Office of Education.
101 Ideas For Combining Service & Learning
Here is a list of ideas for service related to each area of the curriculum that was developed by Florida International University.
We the People... Project Citizen
We the People.
Project Citizen is a civic education program for
middle school and high school students that promotes competent and responsible
participation in state and local government. It actively engages students
in learning how to monitor and influence public policy and encourages
civic participation among students, their parents, and members of the
community. As a class project, students work together to identify and
study a problem in their community related to a public policy issue.
After studying different ways to solve the problem, students develop
an action plan for implementing their solution. The final product is
a portfolio displaying each group's work. These portfolios may be presented
to community groups who can influence policy.
Chavez Day Materials and Publications
The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation has developed links to several publications to help you plan volunteer, educational and cultural activities in your communities on and around Chavez Day, including age-appropriate toolkits, service-learning resource guides, coloring books, and more. There are kits available for elementary, middle and high school projects.
National and Community Service Resource Center
The NSRC site links to resources for service learning projects related to the environment, public safety, education, and/or human needs. It is a good place to start thinking about various types of projects that might tie to Earth Day, Cesar Chavez Day, or Make a Difference Day.
National Service-Learning Partnership
The Partnership is a national network of members dedicated to advancing service learning as a core part of every young person's education. Founded in 2001, the network consists of more than 8,500 members in all 50 states, including young people, teachers, parents, administrators, policymakers, education leaders, community partners, businesspeople, and researchers.
Learn and Serve: Corporation for National and Community Service
Learn and Serve America supports service-learning programs in schools and community organizations that help nearly one million students from kindergarten through college meet community needs, while improving their academic skills and learning the habits of good citizenship. Learn and Serve grants are used to create new programs or replicate existing programs, as well as to provide training and development to staff, faculty, and volunteers.
Make a Differences Day
Make a Difference Day is the most encompassing national day of helping others -- a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Everyone can participate. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, Make a Difference Day is an annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October. To be considered for honors, complete the form on the website.
Four Things Faculty Want to Know About Service Learning
Learn about the characteristics of good Service Learning including how to involve school faculty, a step-by-step service learning development form, how to encourage good student reflection, and recruiting and keeping volunteers.
National Service Learning Clearinghouse
The National Service Learning Clearinghouse has practical resources for teachers, including project ideas and tools. Its goal is to support teachers as they work with students to use service-learning to link education with life.
CityYouth and Community Action
CityYouth is a middle-school curriculum that integrates civic responsibility and service learning into the core academic program. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, CityYouth provides lessons for social studies, math, science, and language arts teachers to use with a common group of students. The lessons use interactive and cooperative learning strategies to help students explore and address community needs. Throughout the program, students analyze causes and effects of community problems, look at issues from a historical perspective, and use a variety of other critical-thinking skills to develop a deeper understanding of community institutions, problems, and resources.
Service Learning Online Course
Service learning is a teaching method that engages students in learning experiences within the community as well as the classroom. This online course provides instruction about the fundamentals of service learning and one way to incorporate it into teaching and curriculum design. The course is designed specifically for pre-service teachers who are studying to become teachers in K-12 settings. The video clips provided in the Toolbox highlight pre-service teacher candidates and examples of the service-learning projects they taught during student teaching assignments.
Restoring the Balance Between Academics and
Civic Engagement in Public Schools
The preoccupation with reshaping academics and raising academic performance created by No Child Left Behind is perceived by a growing number of Americans as overshadowing a task of no less vital importance: educating children and youth to become engaged members of their communities as responsible and informed citizens. This press release links to the full report and to a seven-proposition action plan.
Building an Effective Citizenry:
Lessons Learned from Initiatives in Youth Engagement
This report by the American Youth Policy Forum is a research report of service learning activities around the country and is focused on the question How Can We Build an Effective Youth Citizenry? It is a must read for schools starting service learning programs.
page has been updated and adapted from a site developed by Michelle Herczog,
History-Social Science Consultant at Los Angeles County Office of Education.
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