By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.
Perhaps at one time we considered school a bubble isolated from the world. Not anymore.
Across the globe, school administrators, teachers, and students aim to connect what they are studying to the array of societal issues and concerns they see or read about every day. More and more as educators, we aim to dissolve this separation and recognize school is the real world for youth. And what’s more, they love to look out the windows! And rather than just “looking”, we can create learning that allows for permeable walls. This way we create authentic connections between the academic knowledge, transferable skills and dispositions developing and strengthening in our classrooms with the genuine learning that is available by connecting with community. Once learning connections are made and students become more cognizant of community assets and needs, like all of us, children and teens want to take action.
What could this look like? You probably know. This concept of service learning emerged, as we know it today, in the mid-1980s to provide a viable framework for applying what occurs in math, science, humanities, arts, physical education, and social studies (to name a few subjects), toward alleviating the problems we see in our neighborhoods and communities. Who would have suspected this to become an international phenomenon occurring in K-12 schools and universities around the world!
Your school may already have the beginnings of service learning or a more advanced program. Or you may have a community service program operating on the fringes of the classroom and you recognize that service learning embedded within an academic study has a myriad of benefits including to:
- Improve the eagerness of students to be self-motivated to extend their learning
- Stimulate curiosity and question-asking that leads to deeper understanding
- Engage every student in a way that both differentiates and encourages students to appreciate the abilities of their peers
- Create multi-disciplinary pathways for connecting curriculum
- Heighten social and emotional development as students become more sensitized to the lives and stories of others
- Bring learning to life!
Service Learning Snapshots
Weaver Academy (Greensboro, North Carolina)
How do power tools relate to reading? At Weaver Academy’s high school construction class students are building 138 tiny houses, complete with shingles, to promote literacy.