Aligning Service-Learning with District and State Learning Goals

More and more teachers are thoughtfully connecting their core curriculum to their service activities. The more clear the connection is for the students, parents and community members, the easier it is for students and people to understand how service-learning relates to course work and the more likely it is that students will understand why they are doing the service activities. It also increases the likelihood that they will be able to apply classroom learnings, not only in the service setting, but to future settings.
Teachers often involve students in a planning process which makes the connection to curriculum more explicit. For example, the teacher will take the time when they begin their units to articulate the Essential Learnings or the core curriculum which will be the focus of the unit. Students then generate service activities that clearly demonstration the curriculum. Examples of classroom projects which are closely tied to Washington State Essential Learnings can be found at the Service-Learning Northwest Web site.


Two planning processes are generally used. A general description along with the benefits and disadvantages are described below.

Project-Centered Process:
The following steps are used if a project-centered process is used:

1. Identify the Service Project. Students/ teachers work with the community to develop the service which they think is most significant given the school and community context.

2. Clarify the Essential Academic Skills. Students, community and teachers identify the skills which will be needed to complete the project i.e. computer skills, interviewing skills, writing skills etc.. Select 1-3 essential Learnings which are central to the project and/or core curriculum.

3. Determine Best Assessment Method(s)
(Essay, multiple choice, interview, or performance assessment)

4. Develop Standards and Scoring Guide if necessary. Participants develop criteria for a successful project/product. The criteria may be formulated into a scoring guide, building upon state or locally-developed rubrics.

4. Prepare and Complete Project. Prepare students for the service activities, teaching or reinforcing the necessary project skills. Assess service activities to determine effectiveness of learning.

5. Assess Student Learning. Assessment criteria is used during or at the end of service project to determine the level of performance which was demonstrated by the students and the community.

Example: Wheelchair Ramp
The following example shows how this process could be used with a wheelchair ramp project.

1. Identify the Need. The students and teacher would work with the community to identify a genuine need in the community. Perhaps a wheelchair ramp is needed to enable an elderly person to stay in his home which does not accommodate his new wheelchair. To assist this elderly person, students need to design, plan and build a wheelchair ramp for a local community center, taking into account the need for safety and accessibility.

2. Identifying Possible Essential Academic Learnings. The teacher can then determine which Essential Academic Learnings are incorporated in the project. For example, this project includes the following Essential Academic Learnings.

Legal Information- Liability
Permit Process

Select 2-3 Essential Learnings

4. Prepare and Complete the Project. Teachers along with community members provide needed information in order for students to know the information and materials they need to complete their project.

5. Assess Quality of Work. The teacher, along with the students and community members, can assess the quality of the service tasks, based upon the combine assessment activities


Curriculum-Center Service-Learning

Why are you developing a service-learning project? How will students benefit? What community need(s) will be addressed?

What state standards will be met?

Civic Skills:
What civic skills, attributes or knowledge will be fostered through this experience?

Comments are closed.