Preliminary Outcomes

Merit Research developed and administered on-line surveys completed by teachers, students, and community partners who participated in service-learning projects. Below is a summary of what respondents reported from the 2007-08 school year:


  • Over 40 percent of teachers reported that this was the first time they completed a service-learning project, down from 50 percent during the first year of the grant.
  • Over half the teachers reported that their service-learning project lasted a semester/term or the whole year.
  • The majority of teachers (almost 60 percent) reported that at their school, service learning primarily took place through the work of one or several teachers/coordinators. Service learning also happened through collaboration with colleagues in a department (6 percent), collaboration across several departments (12 percent), school-wide (22 percent), and across the district (2 percent).
  • One-third of teachers reported developing a formal partnership agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with their community partner.

What was your own learning from this project?

I learned quite a bit of science inquiry through the field science activities that I, as a social studies/language arts teacher, was not familiar with.
Learned about the process and how to accomplish things while giving up control!
The great richness that elders have to offer young people, and the value of tapping into a real life writing opportunity.
I learned more about our community, both the individuals and organizations within it. I also became more aware of our students’ lack of knowledge about their own community.
That students of any age can be effective when given a real community need put in front of them.
I learned that students had more patience than I believed, even in situations where they were frustrated.
I’ve learned that it is quite challenging to balance all the demands upon a classroom, while trying to manage a project of this nature. A large number of people and resources must be coordinated, and it is often overwhelming. Strong community partners are critical.
These projects allowed me to facilitate student success in ways I never had. These students shared ongoing learning and progress and I was able to include that in my lessons and help them reflect on their work.

How has implementing this service- learning project changed your practice?

It has helped me realize the importance of student voice in education.
I feel like I am a bit more able to trust my students to get the work done-without my always having to be in control, and that sometimes they will come up with even more amazing ideas or outcomes than if I were to restrict them or control everything. I am able to step back a bit and enjoy watching!
I have learned to give students responsibilities I would previously thought were to far above them. So I now have class leaders that I use to help conduct labs and run general day-to-day affairs, which frees me to be a better facilitator of learning.
I’ve realized that greater connection to authentic science is important for my students. So many lessons learned in class are lost to students, who many see them as mere exercises. The real connection is missing.
I am continually looking for authentic experiences, which now connect to and extend our curriculum. I think with some reflection and planning, this can become a sustainable long-term project.
To demonstrate understanding about service learning, I needed to teach students the difference between a community service and service-learning project. In a jigsaw we taught about the principles of service learning and how our project qualified as service learning.
I have become more organized and intentional in my approach asking students to set daily goals and accomplishments.
My biology instruction has been alter to be service oriented and globally aware.


  • A total of 1300 students completed online surveys, indicating participation in service-learning projects thus far.
  • Half of the students surveyed said they want to participate in future service-learning projects.
  • Nearly 50 percent of students said they were interested in learning more about the content area related to their service-learning project.
  • Two out of five students said their service-learning experience made their understanding of what they were learning in my class more meaningful.
  • One out of three students reported being more interested in their schoolwork after participating in a service-learning project.
  • Students said their service-learning project could be improved by:
    • More group work (48 percent)
    • Service opportunities that align more with their own personal interests (43 percent)
    • More opportunities for student input and ideas (43 percent)

Community Partners

  • A total of 113 new school-community partnerships have been developed to date.
  • Half the community partners reported that their partnership with the school is less than a year old.
  • Over 80 percent of community partners said that partnering with the school on a service-learning project helped them gain a better understanding of the academic value of learning in the community.
  • Eight out of ten community partners agreed with the statement, “I believe our community’s ability to solve problems is increasing because of participation and leadership from students.”
  • Seventy percent of community partners reported that their organization increased its capacity to provide services to the community as a result of working with the service-learning students.

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