By: Julie Rogers Bascom, Director, Learning and Leadership  

Over the past 2 years, we’ve been collecting reflections from practitioners on why they use service-learning. We’ve captured responses from K-12 teachers, district administrators, higher ed leaders, after school program providers and everyone in between. In the service-learning process, that’s where we start, by planning for desired outcomes. We ask ourselves: what are we hoping for young people? Is it academic content? Life skills? Social emotional learning? (I might add that I haven’t seen a quality service-learning experience that hasn’t included SEL. To learn more about this, head to our Resource Library and search “SEL outcomes” to download our popular “Social Emotional Learning, Service-Learning Crosswalk”.)

So, what are the top reasons for using service-learning?

This collection of educator responses always inspires us! From compiling responses, we learned that our educators top reasons for using service-learning are to engage, empower, and provide real world experiences for their students. This is the power of service-learning used as a teaching strategy. It’s not just a project, in fact when you plan for desired outcomes, the experience is more than the hours or the action. It’s that initial educator step – determining intended outcomes for students, what you want them to walk away knowing, understanding and doing. It’s about the impact and the transformation, not just in the community but in the student. 

One participant shared that their why was, “To raise students’ awareness of current issues in our community and see how they can help. To apply content learned in a practical way so they see a connection.”

Another educator shared, “I want kids to feel like school isn’t just about doing well on tests so they can go to college and get a job. I want school to be a place where they find what they care about, what they are good at, and what they want to do to add value to this world.” 

And another shares, “I want them to feel hopeful for the future because they feel they can make the change they want to see.”

Engaging in the PROCESS of service-learning  connects these whys to student outcomes, like increasing social awareness and relationship skills, and connecting to learning standards and real world experiences.  

We invite you to consider where you want to start with your next service-learning experience by reading the responses shared by educators we’ve worked with in the past. Find it HERE and please, add your own reflections in the far left column, we look forward to hearing from you!

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