After Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University looked inward and became the first major “high research” institution in the country to require “service learning” as part of the undergraduate required core curriculum. The requirement was grounded in the belief that “public service, rooted in an academic context…contributes to the development of student engagement.”
Locally, American University’s Community Service-Learning Program (CSLP) provides students the opportunity to receive an additional credit linked to a regular three- or four-credit course in exchange for completing an additional course assignment or project and 40 hours of service work relevant to the subject.
At George Washington University, the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service offers resources and support to faculty and students implementing service-learning into courses and programs. Specifically, the Center works to “enhance and grow GW service-learning in the District and around the world.”
Forty years ago, colleges weren’t particularly sensitive to the value of “experiential” learning. These kinds of opportunities were limited to those learning a profession like nurses or teachers and the very few who could afford to study abroad. But all this has changed, as colleges clearly see the value of combining community service with classroom learning.
The Hands On Network has developed a great list of benefits of service learning that are just as relevant to high school students as undergrads. Consider the following:
- Service learning can enhance personal development in areas such as self-esteem, moral reasoning, and concern for others and society.
- Students learn more readily because they are learning by doing.
- Service learning supports the development of social skills, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities.
- Involvement in service learning makes the subject matter in school real and relevant for students as they try out knowledge and skills.
- When young people serve others, they can see they are valued and can make a real difference.
- As students discover their own abilities to address issues, they are empowered to become active citizens.
- Young people learn leadership skills as they take responsibility for designing and implementing service experiences.
- Students become measurably more engaged in their education and their community.
- Community members become partners with schools in educating students.
- Through the implementation of service learning projects, schools become viewed as resources to the community.
To learn more about service learning opportunitites in your community, visit the National Service Learning Clearinghouse.