Service Learning

10 creative service learning projects to inspire your students

By March 6, 2020 March 18th, 2020 No Comments

Service-learning is a fantastic pedagogie to use in the classroom to create student engagement and facilitate student’s personal growth. Service-learning projects enable students to connect what is being learned in the classroom with practical experience with the community. Not only does this give students a different insight into their lives, but challenges their perspective of the world around them and how they fit into it.

What learning objectives do service-learning projects answer to?

Service-learning is a versatile instructional strategy that can be applied to several different subjects across different grades. It is particularly useful in achieving learning objectives that involve[1]:

  • Critical thinking – the synthesis and analysis of information to solve complex problems with multiple possible solutions
  • Problem-solving – the application of concepts and knowledge to practice in new contexts
  • Communication skills – effective written, oral and visual communication
  • Teamwork – working collaboratively with others, especially across difference and diversity
  • Responsibility – exercise well-reasoned judgement and taking ownership of learning

 Citizenship – using the disciplines knowledge base to address social issues, as well as developing the skills and habits for critical reflection

These different learning objectives are built into the five stages of service-learning, which include:

  1. Investigate – Learners understand that investigating the needs of the community makes service effective
  2. Preparation and Planning – Learners understand that preparation and planning ensure that the goals and needs are met
  3. Action – Learners understand that implementing a plan of action generates change and results
  4. Reflection (trans-disciplinary)- Learners understand that reflection is ongoing, prompting deep thinking and analysis about themselves and their relationship to society
  5. Demonstration/Communication (trans-disciplinary) – Learners recognize that through demonstration and communication they solidify their understanding and evoke a response from others.

Throughout the five stages of any service-learning project, students are challenged to expand their thinking of the world around them, which leads to personal growth. The skills learnt in each stage of the service-learning project creates opportunities for personal growth in terms of how students think and act. This fosters passion and empathy, helping students understand diversity and the challenges that others are going through and how to find solutions to them.

What do service-learning projects look like in and out of classrooms?

The benefits of service-learning within the school environment are endless, although finding the right projects to take part in can sometimes be a challenge. When deciding on a service-learning project, it is essential to look at the needs, challenges, issues and problems within your community. Finding a community partner who is open to working with your school and developing  projects around their needs and your learning outcomes is essential. We advise on partnerships with people, animals and the environment to provide voice and choice with students and projects. We have selected a few examples and these can be found on our Serve Learn Youtube channel: LINK

Take a look at some of our favorite examples of service-learning projects below[2][3]:

 

  • Health and wellness focus

      • Create a campaign focused on health or prevention topics
      • Establish a project that aims to provide elderly members of the community with companionship
      •  Learn and create a program around good nutrition and its importance to the community

Community service focus

      • Survey your school or neighborhood to find out what people think the issues are that need to be addressed. Publish and present the results
      • Find, interview and write the histories of diverse people in your community
      • Hold a clothing drive and deliver items to homeless shelters or communities in need

Environmental focus

      • Fundraise for money to plant trees or gardens in the community that will feed people
      • Grow trees for reforestation in the local community
      • Create community gardens to help feed those in need
      • Test school and community drinking water for dangerous chemicals and inform people of the results
      • Clean up a vacant lot and landscape with native vegetation
      •  Research the need to reduce litter inside and outside your school or other public areas and propose a solution and action campaign

 

service learning projects

Safety focus

      • Produce an anti-crime, anti-drug, anti-violence play and perform it for the community
      •  Create a public service announcement (PSA) on a safety issue
      • Create a play that teaches young children how to stay safe at home while their parents are away and perform this in underprivileged schools

Art focus

    • Hold a silent auction in support of a cause, with artwork created by students around a concept such as Human Rights
    •  Have students host a holiday art class, create art with community partners
    • Use recycling to produce products to generate an income for a partner 

Inclusion focus

      • Make maps of your community for newcomers and highlight useful resources
      • Create and distribute a list of hotlines or agency links for kids who might need help
      • Make posters or collages that promote tolerance and understanding of difference. Post them in your school
      • Start an anti-bullying campaign
      • Set up a buddy system at your school for kids with special needs

Animal focus

      • Create fliers to distribute to pet owners about the nutritional needs of pets
      • Start a bird sanctuary. Build bird feeders, plant trees and write journal entries about birds for younger grades
      • Knit nests, pouches, or build bird boxes for wildlife sanctuaries

Internal school focus

      • Design and paint a mural for the outside of your school to inspire learning
      • Create a student-run conference on a concept such as poverty, diversity, equity, sustainability to build understanding of global and local issues. Have booths, breakout sessions and speakers

Literacy focus

      • Develop booklets on cultures within your school or community. Give them to the library, partners and the Chamber of Commerce
      • Translate Advocacy pamphlets and flyers into other languages to help community members who do not speak English
      • Help teach literacy to younger students in homework help classes

Creative focus

      • Write a children’s reading book, then read and give away books to children in hospitals and community partners
      • Design and decorate duvets, pillows and blankets, knit hats, gloves for homeless children in the winter
      • Create a play for an audience on an issue for advocacy

Sports focus

      • Create a tournament for partners, students, community to participate for a cause
      • Organize a fun run/walk for cancer
      • Seek sponsorship for a cause for a period of time – run, skip, play a sport, swim, etc.

Technology focus

      • Create a website for a community partner
      • Create PSA blogs on a website for advocacy of a cause
      • Utilize social media for various causes, promote UN SDGs, bring awareness to an issue such as pollution, human rights or the extinction of animals

 

service learning projects

Service-learning projects are not only beneficial for student’s personal growth they help the community by meeting verified needs through various types of action (direct, indirect, advocacy, research). It is so versatile that service learning projects can be implemented across several different subjects and grades.

Students develop passion through being involved in service learning projects that they are interested in. Providing students with agency-voice and choice of what project they would like to be involved with the community generates enthusiasm and engagement.

Insight into your community needs and a spark of creativity is all you need to make a difference.

 

 

[1] Jacoby,B, Howard,J. (2015).Service-Learning Essentials: Questions, Answers and Lessons Learned. United States of America, Jossey-Bass. PG81

[2]  The School for Ethical Education. (2017). Project Ideas for Service Learning. Viewed on 24 January 2020. https://www.ethicsed.org/project-ideas-for-service-learning.html

[3] West. D. (2018). 9 Powerful Service-Learning Projects to Inspire Your Students. The Art of Education University. Viewed on 24 January 2020. https://theartofeducation.edu/2017/10/24/october-art-purpose-service-learning-ideas-teach-kids-real-world-learning/

 

Tara Barton

Tara Barton

Tara brings passion and a deep understanding of service learning, rooted in years of experience, to her training. Her training builds bridges from theory to implementation while generously sharing her resources and knowledge to ensure our success. Tara works with the whole school (administration, teachers, students, and SL leaders) to build a sustainable program that is embedded in the curriculum and tied to the mission. She energized a faculty on a Friday afternoon, no easy feat, leaving them with a desire to learn more about SL and to become more involved. I cannot recommend Tara highly enough.

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