Service-Learning Overview

Overview of Service-Learning

“For me, service-learning is the right thing to do for professional renewal, enrichment and meaning. It has been a way to bring both my heart and my students’ hearts into this thing I do: teaching. Teaching is a tough job; it demands a great deal of perseverance, honesty and hard work.”

-Roland MacNichol, former Teacher-Leader at Gig Harbor High School

What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is…

  • Civics students helping new immigrants to pass their citizenship tests.
  • Elementary students building a bird sanctuary as part of their study of bird migration.
  • Middle school students capturing the history of an abandoned mining town.
  • Industrial Design students designing and building a wheelchair for a child with multiple sclerosis

Service -Learning is a method of teaching through which students apply newly-acquired academic skills and knowledge to address real-life needs in their own communities.

Effective Service- Learning:

• Enables students to use classroom skills and knowledge in real-life situations.
• Connects youth with people in their communities and provides valuable service to the community.
• Fosters civic responsibility and a sense of caring for others.
• Provides structured time for reflection on the experience.


Service learning is initially a difficult concept for people to understand. That is because people immediately think of volunteerism . People need to understand the distinction between community service and service-learning. Service learning is a method of teaching which connects classroom content to the community in a way that is helpful to others. The primary emphasis is on enriching the learning that happens as students apply their knowledge to a community context. By contrast, the primary purpose of youth community service is to provide service to the community and to foster an ethic of service.

Is It Community Service

The outcome of Community Service-Learning

  • Initiated and coordinated by either adults or students
  • Initiated and coordinated by students, with adults as guides or mentors
  • Students are asked to become involved with an existing project, or develop their own project
  • Students do a community needs assessment, and develop their project choice based on their selection of a “real community need”
  • Students may earn credit hours for community service participation
  • Service project is incorporated into to the school curriculum
  • Learning may or may not be present
  • Academic learning component is intentional
  • Reflection is not usually a part of the activity
  • Students are required to complete a series of structured reflection activities
  • Evaluation of the service activity is optional, and assessment-based:  “How did we do?”
  • Evaluation of the service activity is required (as an outgrowth of the reflection process) and is relationship-based:  “How does this relate to what I am learning in school?  To my future career?  To my role in my community?”



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