November 15, 1999
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.
To learn more, visit the website for the National K-12 Service Learning Cooperative Clearinghouse at www.nicsl.coled.umn.edu, or the National Youth Leadership Council website at www.nylc.org. Service Learning in the Northwest Region is available online at www.nwrel.org/request/july96/.
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.