Northwest NEWS

November 15, 1999


Guest Editorial

Service Learning gets kids involved

   Students learn about the importance of recycling programs in the classroom and then take their knowledge into the community by teaching local businesses how to reduce the amount of waste they generate. Groups of students interview seniors on their experiences during World War II. The results of these interviews are compiled into an oral history book, presented to the seniors, and made available to the community.

   Service Learning ... What is it?

   These scenarios are examples of service learning, a method of teaching and learning that integrates practical life experience, service to the community, and academics for students of all ages. Rather than presenting information to students in the isolated environment of a classroom, students see and experience the practical application of knowledge they have gained.

   While service learning strives to reinforce classroom academics, it also provides opportunities for character building and personal growth. Working within the community can teach students more about the diverse world in which we live, help them develop understanding, and provide a sense of civic responsibility.

   Service learning doesn't occur only through schools. While some service learning activities are school-based and have direct ties to curricula, other service learning activities occur in local organizations like YMCAs or Boys and Girls Clubs. Regardless of the locale, all programs take a hands-on approach to learning and use the students' energy and enthusiasm to benefit the community.

   Service learning:

   Your child's school may already integrate service learning into the curriculum. You can talk to your child's teacher or school principal, and ask about service learning opportunities that may be available, or suggest some possibilities. You can also contact local community organizations, such as the YMCA, to find out about other service learning programs in your area.

   To learn more, visit the website for the National K-12 Service Learning Cooperative Clearinghouse at, or the National Youth Leadership Council website at Service Learning in the Northwest Region is available online at

This column by Jessica Athens is provided by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, a non-profit institution working with schools and communities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.