What does Service-Learning look like in a K-12 School-Based Context?
Service-learning is an invaluable tool for connecting academic learning with real world experience, while promoting character development and civic engagement for students. High quality service-learning allows students to actively engage in meaningful and personally relevant service projects while working to meet learning goals and specific content standards. It encourages cross-curricular connections where students learn to transfer newly obtained skills and content to real world applications. By experiencing age-appropriate challenges that require problem solving, initiative, teamwork, and reflection, students develop responsibility and leadership while contributing to their communities.
Service-learning can enrich the academic experiences of students in many ways:
- It is positive, meaningful, and real to the participants.
- It involves cooperative rather than competitive experiences and thus promote skills associated with teamwork, community involvement, and citizenship.
- It addresses complex problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation.
- It offers opportunities to engage in problem-solving by requiring participants to gain knowledge of the specific context of their service-learning activity and community challenges, while drawing on the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom. As a result, service-learning offers powerful opportunities to acquire essential habits of critical thinking by prompting students to identify the most important questions or issues within a real-world situation.
- It promotes deeper learning because the results are immediate and not contrived. There are no "right answers" in the back of the book.
- As a consequence of this immediacy of experience, service-learning is more likely to be personally meaningful to participants, to generate emotional consequences, to challenge and build values and ideas, and to support social, emotional, and cognitive learning and development.