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Lesson 6.12

Service Learning:
How Can I Help?

Why not help someone while learning?

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Service Learning is a bit of education jargon worth knowing. It describes activities that involve students in structured activities that benefit others while connecting with their school experience in an intentional way.

Service learning usually involves taking students outside the school, but whereas field trips are usually about seeing or experiencing something for the student’s benefit, service learning is usually designed to involve the student in something that benefits another.

A small, simple example of service learning is common: many kindergarten classes make a trip to a nearby assisted-living home to sing songs and share smiles. A much greater level of service is required to earn the Eagle Scout badge in Boy Scouts. Some ambitious teachers plan service learning opportunities in a way that folds in academic work such as research, writing, and speaking. Service learning can also create real reasons for teamwork, offering students leadership opportunities and chances to learn about planning and working with others.

Service learning
is a way
of helping others
for a grade.

Service learning approaches vary widely, making them hard to study. Research about the benefits of service learning is largely anecdotal and suffers from selection bias, but that doesn’t make it wrong. John Mockler, a California education policy expert who influenced many of California's education leaders, often suggested that when it is difficult to figure out whether something complicated is worth the effort it is helpful to look at what private schools are doing. Service learning is an important movement in independent schools.

The National Service Learning Network has compiled a wealth of resources related to service learning.

Updated July 2017


True or false: Service learning can be part of a field trip experience.

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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Stacey W April 27, 2015 at 11:03 pm
Students in our school district are required to complete 40 community service hours in order to graduate. I love this idea since it shows students that they can use their time and energies to help others. Although I'm sure many students do just enough to fulfill the minimum requirement, there are students who go above and beyond and do hundreds, if not more community service hours. These go-getters truly make an impact in our community.
user avatar
Susannah Baxendale February 2, 2019 at 1:11 pm
Stacey has described well the students who do it just to get it over with, and the students who do much more. I would add that for some students, each time they sample an opportunity they come closer to figuring out what might be a career path or a volunteer avocation (so to speak). It makes them better and more well-rounded adults. Regardless of motive, service hours do usually accomplish good for the community or individuals on the receiving end. Some people are born to volunteer and some can discover it. Some will never do it willingly -- but get used to the concept, since some employers require some 'good works'!
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