Service learning is a teaching method that combines service to the community with classroom curriculum. It is more than merely community service. It is a hands-on approach to mastering subject material while fostering civic responsibility. By teaching students early about the role they can play in their community, service-learning also encourages lifelong civic participation. Furthermore, by relating academic activities to real-life experiences, service-learning improves workplace skills and enhances personal development among youth. Finally, service learning gives students a sense of competency; they see themselves as active contributors to their community and learning experiences rather than passive recipients of adult decisions.
Service Learning through PLAY: Purposeful Learning Activities for Youngsters
Investigation of Advocacy Service Activity:
- What is the overall purpose of the service-learning project? What impact do you hope the project will have on the community? Is there a sense of urgency and importance to this project?
- What content standards/benchmarks, including civic goals, will working on the project allow students to meet?
- Talk to you parents and teachers about service learning to identify the community problem that will be addressed.
- Add a research component. Students should be helped to document the nature of the problem that they identified. The idea is to teach the students how to gather evidence that will be used to determine a baseline against which they can measure their impact. The baseline information should be quantifiable.
- Help students come to a consensus on the community problem that will be addressed. This fosters teamwork and collaboration skills.
Planning and Preparation:
- What is the specific service to be provided and how does it relate to the purpose of the service learning activity? How does it address the areas of impact that it will have on the students and the community?
- What content standards/benchmarks, including civic goals will this project address, and how will they be facilitated?
- What background knowledge do students need to assure students’ readiness for the project?
- What types of assessment will be used to determine progress toward meeting specific goals?
- How will participants’ personal reflections be monitored and addressed?
Students will identify the community concern, develop an action plan that details the service(s) that will be provided, how they will be provided, who will be responsible, what the timeline is, what resources are needed, and identify indicators of success. Students will also identify the academic and civic goals that the project will meet, and develop an assessment plan to determine progress toward meeting specific goals.
Implementation of Advocacy Service Activity:
- Assuming students are trying to address the underlying causes of a problem by attempting to influence policymakers or elected officials, what other advocacy components could be added to the project to enhance the learning and help students feel an even greater sense of efficacy?
- How can students remain engaged over time?
As the service plan unfolds students will engage in self-assessments about how well they collaborate, work as a team, accomplish their goals, and anticipate and deal with problems, and engage in trouble shooting conversations and redirection if needed.
- What reflection prompts before, during, and at the end of the project would encourage students to use multiple modes of response as they apply academic, civic and social emotional learning goals to their service experience?
- In what ways can reflection be used as a summative assessment?
Reflecting on the service-learning experience can encourage students to connect classroom learning with real-life applications. Reflection activities should be continuous, and allow for feedback and assessment to help students develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their responsibilities as citizens. Students will be able to explain or demonstrate to others how they impacted the community and how they themselves have changed as a result of their service-learning activities.