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Service Learning Program Recommendations

Service learning helps students understand the needs of their local community while gaining valuable skills.

Service learning is a form of experiential learning. Students apply their content knowledge, critical thinking skills, and good judgment to address genuine community needs.

Service learning is different than other volunteer opportunities because the project is intertwined with related classroom activities.

Service learning helps students understand the needs of their community and how their skills can help. They also gain valuable skills that will benefit them as citizens and employees.

Example of Service Learning Experience


  • Service: A group of students clean a riverbank.
  • Learning: The same students in a natural resources classroom look at water samples under a microscope.
  • Service Learning: The students take samples from local water sources, then analyze the samples, and document the results. They present scientific information to a pollution control agency, and reflect on the impact these results may have on future pollution control issues and their own behaviors and attitudes. It could also include exploration of careers tied to environmental issues.
  • Service Learning is not: the same as community service, field trips, stand-alone projects, or a course add-on.

Essential Elements for Service-Learning

  1. Education Goals: Establish clear education goals that require the application of concepts, content, and skill from the academic disciplines and involves students in the construction of their own knowledge.
  2. Challenge: Students are engaged in tasks that challenge and stretch them cognitively and developmentally.
  3. Learning Assessment: Assessment is used as a way to enhance student learning as well as to document and evaluate how well students have met content and skill standards.
  4. Service Tasks: Students are engaged in service tasks that have clear goals, meet genuine needs in the school or community and have significant outcomes for themselves and others.
  5. Service Evaluation: Employs systematic evaluation of the service effort and its outcomes.
  6. Self-Directed Learning: Creates opportunities to foster individualized learning in selecting, designing, implementing, and evaluating the service-learning project.
  7. Diversity: Values multiplicity through its participants, practice, and outcomes and honors individual learning styles.
  8. Community Partnerships: Promotes communication and interaction with the community by encouraging partnerships and collaboration.
  9. Preparation: Students are prepared for all aspects of their service-learning, including a clear understanding of task and role, the skills and information required by the task, an awareness of safety precautions and knowledge about and sensitivity to the people with whom they will be working.
  10. Reflection: Student contemplation takes place before, during and after service; uses multiple methods; encourages critical thinking; and is a central force in the design and fulfillment of curricular activities.
  11. Celebration: Designed to acknowledge, celebrate and further validate students' service work.

Service Learning Programs & Resources


Adapted from: Connecting Youth to Work-Based Learning: Blueprint for a Quality Program, Minnesota Department of Education, 2003.