It’s not just about volunteering and it’s not just community service, but Service learning has a place for both of these concepts and more. Service learning has a place in all classrooms, and the best part is service learning is for every level of learner, every learning style, and for any dream imaginable. Today at a We Day celebration, for the first time in North Texas, I was reminded of how powerful service learning is for our youth.
When I was a younger teacher, I used service learning as a way to draw in even the toughest student, as it makes learning relevant for everyone, but as testing has become a dominant, driving force in the public school classroom, I have put it on the back-burner. I have been a slave to a curriculum that doesn’t have a heart for my students, but today, a renewed promise to put service learning into practice took over!
Service learning is a natural way to let students take what they are learning and use it in a real world way to help the community for the greater good. Its message is for any age, and you don’t have to wait until you grow up to be a leader, or inventor, or innovator, or advocate! Teachers become facilitators as a student or student group takes their knowledge and develops a plan. Teachers help as students research and put their plan into action, retrieve data/information, and then reflect on their mission. How can they improve? The teacher helps her students reflect on all the areas of success, failure, and needed improvement. Didn’t work like they thought it would? That’s fine, what did they learn along the way? After this in depth reflection, the students decide how they will demonstrate their learning to the public. They can make a youtube video, tweet it out, write a report,create a presentation of pictures using Google Slides, or do a live showing. It’s all up to them! These are the steps to service learning and it may sound a lot like Project Based Learning (PBL) plus a heart for the community. The absolute best part is that students become teachers and true learning takes place!
Can you see all the ways that students can utilize this type of learning? Can you see how someone who thinks school sucks might actually want to get involved if it was something they were passionate about? Students won’t feel like they aren’t learning anything useful, on the contrary, they are learning something that will help them, and others, for the rest of their lives! The We Day program displayed all sorts of service learning, from girls who made a product to raise money to help an African village have a clean water well, a boy who wanted everyone to have affordable hearing aides, a girl who was bullied online as the “ugliest woman alive” and is now an anti-cyber bully advocate, to a young man who was born with a disease that took his legs, but not his spirit as he demonstrated to the whole world what a person can do even when the doctors labeled him as a human with no quality of life. These young people defied limitations and have made the world a better place. That’s service learning, ya’ll.
So why can’t that be our mission, Educators? Why not put the information drilling away and let our learners take the lead? They know what needs to be done. They need our wisdom to guide them, and I know it sounds cheesy, but I truly believe together we can make our village a better one. And maybe not just our village, but our world…the limitations are gone with service learning.
The best part of being an educator is being able to equip our youth with opportunities to put their knowledge into practice in a way that helps others. I’m a fifth grade teacher and I’ve seen kids put together a program to help new students fit in, a program to help students with hot tempers cool off in a safe place, brochures about Halloween, Fire, and Tornado safety be taught to younger students, and I’m pretty sure there’s so much more these young people can do. And if my fifth graders can do awesome things, think about what all levels of learners can do with what they are learning! Isn’t this why we became teachers? I know it certainly wasn’t my goal to teach to a test year after year.
If you feel like service learning is something you want to implement, like creating hope for your students to share is even more important than book knowledge, I hope you’ll start on this journey. It all falls in line with the Growth Mindset of social emotional learning, so don’t let the mistakes along the way stop you from your mission. Learn from them! Go for it! Your students will love you for it. We’re getting down to the last few months of school, so help your students put their knowledge into practice in a way that helps their own community. I promise that the impact they make for others, and the impact that in turn has on their lives, is priceless.
Are you already a service learning facilitator? What tips would you share? What projects have your students created?
Thinking this sounds like something you want to dive into? What are your fears? How could we support you?
Being a teacher means we have the power to be Hope Creators for this present generation, the We Generation, or Gen We. Let’s join together to help our World Changers!