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Student Service Learning

Service-Learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning. Students improve their academic skills by applying what they learn in school to the real world; they then reflect on their experience to reinforce the link between their service and their learning. 
  -- Learning in Deed 

Service-Learning is often confused with 
volunteering or community service.  While both activities are defined as forms of service within a community, they do not necessarily include a structured educational connection for participants, which is a foundation of all service-learning projects. Students are encouraged to speak with their school service-learning coordinator to discuss if a volunteer or other service activity can be developed into a service-learning project by incorporating a structured educational component.  

Components of a Service-Learning Project

All service-learning experiences must include PREPARATION, ACTION, and REFLECTION:

Preparation
 is the first step of service-learning in which students work with teachers and community members to:

  • Identify issues affecting the community in areas related to health, education, environment, or public safety
  • Select project site(s) and how to address a selected issue
  • Plan service-learning reflection
  • Explore the concept of active citizenship

Action is the next step of service-learning in which students carry out their service through one of the following:

  • Direct Service – Students have face-to-face contact with service recipients.  Examples include tutoring other students, serving meals at a homeless shelter, working with the elderly in a senior citizen community, etc.
  • Indirect Service – Students perform a service without having direct contact with the recipient.  Usually resources are channeled to help alleviate a problem.  Examples include food and clothing drives, environmental projects, raising money for a cause through activities such as a walk-a-thon, etc…
  • Advocacy – Students educate others about a selected issue with the goal of eliminating the causes of a particular problem.  Examples include writing letters to legislators or newspaper editors, creating web pages, creating and displaying posters within the community, writing and performing informative plays, creating educational materials for other target groups, legislative testimony, etc.

Reflection is the final step of service-learning in which students look back upon the completed project and review what they have learned.  Reflection may be done individually (journals, scrapbooks, teacher-student meetings) or as a group (class evaluation of the project based on the goals and outcomes).


Maryland's Seven Best Practices

All service-learning experiences should meet Maryland's Seven Best Practices of Service-Learning.  These best practices expand on the fundamental preparation, action and reflection stages of service-learning and should be used to assess high-quality projects.

Maryland's Seven Best Practices of Service-Learning

  1. Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
  2. Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning
  3. Reflect throughout Service-Learning Experience
  4. Develop Student Responsibility
  5. Establish Community Partnerships
  6. Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
  7. Equip Students with Knowledge and Skills Needed for Service

Published with the permission of the Maryland State Department of Education


Independent Service-learning Project Guidelines

In addition to classroom projects, students may also complete approved service-learning projects outside of school.  In order to complete an independent project, students should take the following steps:

1. Choosing a project:  The service site supervisor must agree to provide preparation/orientation and reflection activities for students.  The student should utilize the Seven Best Practices of Service-Learning to determine if a project meets the guidelines.  Service-learning coordinators may assist with identifying appropriate preparation and reflection activities.

2. Gaining approval:  Students are to complete the Independent Service-Learning Activity Pre-Approval Form available at the local school.  This form ensures that the completed project will count toward service-learning hour and that parent/guardian approval is provided. 

3. Preparing:   The service site supervisor is required to provide the student with a structured preparation/orientation time to ensure the student fully understands the purpose and/or mission of the organization and how their service will address a community need.

4. Acting on service:  Some service projects are short term while others are long term.  The service site supervisor is responsible for tracking and verifying the hours earned throughout the project.

5. Reflecting on service:  Students must the complete the reflection questions on the Hours Verification and Reflection Form or other school approved written reflection.  Service-learning coordinators may provide additional suggestions for appropriate reflection activities.

6. Tracking hours:  When all completed forms are brought to the service-learning coordinator, the hours will be recorded and the final paperwork will be returned to the student for their records.   All students are encouraged to keep a file at home of their service-learning projects. 

7. Service time can be verified by an assigned site supervisor who is not a relative. (Occasional exceptions are permitted at the discretion of the school service-learning coordinator and MUST be pre-approved before the project)


Resources and Publications

Parent Brochure

Standards & Guidelines


Coordinators for Student Service-Learning in BCPS

 
Contact Information:

Nora Murray, Program Specialist
443-809-4329

Additional materials for staff are available at our intranet.





What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning. Students improve their academic skills by applying what they learn in school to the real world; they then reflect on their experience to reinforce the link between their service and their learning. -- Learning in Deed

Contact Information:
Nora Murray, Project Specialist
443-809-4329

Additional materials for staff are available at our intranet.