Service Learning

Published November 5, 2023

Service Learning

As we enter the holiday season, it may be a good time to consider conducting a unit of service learning in your classroom.

For secondary students, a service learning unit might begin before the Thanksgiving break and continue until the semester ends late in January.

For elementary students, a unit of service learning that begins upon students’ return from their Thanksgiving break and ends just before Winter Break may be enough.

A type of project-based learning, service learning is one way of extending kindness to others that is very well suited to students and classes of all grades and levels of ability.

“Service-learning is a teaching methodology that enables students to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to meaningful service to the community” (ASU).

While it is easy to perceive how recipients of service benefit from the efforts of students, the advantages of service learning to students are less obvious but critically important.

Ways that students benefit from service learning (youth.gov):

Promotion of prosocial behavior and social-emotional skills in students

  • Increase in behavior that demonstrates respect for others and for public property
  • Increase in cooperative behavior
  • Improved psychological well-being
  • Improved goal-setting skills
  • Improved ability to alter behavior in order to reach goals
  • Fewer incidents of problematic behavior

Promotion of sense of connectedness to the school and community

  • Feeling valued in the community
  • Feeling responsible for community welfare
  • Feeling proud of the community
  • More likely to take action to benefit the community

Improved academic performance

Service learning must:

  • Be conducted within a community
  • Meet an actual need within the community
  • Apply and enhance academic learning

Examples quoted directly from ASU:

“Picking up trash on a riverbank is service; studying water samples under a microscope is learning. When science students collect and analyze water samples during their cleanup efforts, document their results, and present findings to a local pollution control agency that is service-learning.”

“Hosting a food drive is service, learning about nutrition is learning. When 3rd grade students collect food donations, sort canned food into the basic food groups to make nutritionally balanced meals, and deliver the donations to the local food bank that is service-learning.”

We hope you will consider providing service learning opportunities for your students during this upcoming holiday season!

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