What is it? Service-learning is an educational tool that engages students in community service, while also providing structured opportunities for them to reflect upon and learn from the experience. Projects have many positive impacts. Schools gain a valuable experiential teaching method. Student participants enhance citizenship and other skills, depending on the project’s nature. Local organizations receive valuable volunteer labor. Communities, as whole, also receive benefits such as a beautified park, a cleaner stream, or improved mentorship for at-risk youth. The reflection component provides students with an opportunity to learn more about an issue or condition, and about how they might be able to better help improve conditions.
How has it been used? Elementary and middle schools students in Wyoming County, West Virginia participated in a service learning project focused on their local streams. Students helped collect litter and clear debris from the area’s watershed. Teachers and project partners consistently paired this type of direct service with other learning, such as assessing water quality, identifying the stream’s invertebrates, and discovering ways the streams affected the people nearby. Students also learned about the importance of reducing waste, reusing materials and recycling in order to maintain a healthy watershed. The project helped young learners become more engaged in their community and better informed about the environment. (Source: National Service-Learning Clearinghouse)