Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.

--Aristotle

            Schools and teachers are the cornerstones of their communities.  They have a unique opportunity to engage with these communities through service learning, the benefits of which are manifold.  Students, teachers, and the schools themselves share in these benefits.

            Service learning is a way for students to apply skills and concepts that they have learned in the classroom to the real world.  One of the best things about service learning is that every type of class has the opportunity to incorporate it into their curriculum.  No matter what the subject is, there is a need in the community which can be met with a service project.

            Utilizing service learning is an excellent way to ensure that the concepts being taught in the classroom are being understood by the students.  “Service learning not only enriches traditional course content by giving the student an opportunity to 'test' or 'demonstrate' abstract theory in the real world, it also improves the quality of the service being performed by giving it an intellectual underpinning.” 1

               The most important benefits in a service learning program are for the students.  Some studies have shown that students who participate in service learning classes during the K-12 years are more likely to be engaged citizens as adults.  This means higher voter participation as well as a heightened involvement in community service.2Therefore the community benefits doubly from these students, first from their service, and then from their future engagement. 

                Students who take part in service learning course work are also exposed to a greater variety of career options.  An early exposure to real world application of school work gave students an idea of the importance of “intrinsic work values, importance of career, and importance of community involvement.”3   These concepts can be taught in a classroom, but they are absorbed better when they are provided with an opportunity to do service learning.

                 Schools also benefit from engaging with the community.  When schools provide service learning for students, they are able to connect with important community partners.  These connections are important for other projects that the school might want to undertake and may lead to more extensive partnerships which could provide financial or social benefits for the schools.

 

Citations

1. Linda J Sax and Alexander W Astin; “The Benefits of Service: Evidence From Undergraduates;” The Educational Record, Vol. 78, No. 3-4, (July, 1997), pp. 25-32.

2.  Daniel Hart, Thomas M. Donnelly, James Youniss, Robert Atkins; “High School Community Service as a Predictor of Adult Voting and Volunteering;”American Educational Research Journal;Vol. 44, No. 1 (Mar., 2007), pp. 197-219

3. A. A. Stukas,  M. Snyder, E. G. Clary, & Society for Research in Child Development.  Service learning: Who benefits and why. Ann Arbor, Mich: Society for Research in Child Development. (1999).