Service Learning: Inspire Your Kids to Make a Real Difference

What is Service Learning?

Service learning and community service are often thought of as two interchangeable experiences, evoking images of students picking up trash along the roadside, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or collecting items for a canned food drive. All of these community service activities are of great benefit, teach valuable lessons, and people (young and old) should be encouraged to take part. Service learning, however, takes community service to the next level. The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse states that “service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.”

The Benefits of Service Learning

The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse has identified several studies that highlight the benefits of service learning. Youth who participate in high-quality community-based service-learning are likely to benefit in a number of ways (Chung, 1997; Coe-Regan et al, in press; Lewis-Charp et al., 2003; Tannenbaum, S. C., 2007; and YMCA of the USA, 2004):

  • Young people gain access to the range of supports and opportunities (or developmental assets) they need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. One study of youth civic activism found that these settings had particular strength in cultivating youth and community involvement (Lewis-Charp et al., 2003).
  • Increased sense of self-efficacy as young people learn that they can impact real social challenges, problems, and needs.
  • Higher academic achievement and interest in furthering their education.
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and planning abilities.
  • Enhanced civic engagement attitudes, skills and behaviors. Many leaders in public service today speak about how they were nurtured, inspired, and shaped in early experiences in community service or volunteering.

Plan Your Service Learning Project

One of the many benefits of homeschooling, is that you often have the flexibility to adjust your schedule to accommodate a variety of activities such as music lessons, field trips, sports, and other group activities. Why not set aside some time each month to include service learning as part of your regular schedule?

The Hands On Network, an organization that “inspires, equips, and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world” provides 7 tips for successful service-learning projects:

  1. Choose age appropriate projects.
  2. Keep it simple!
  3. Have the students help plan the project.
  4. Develop partnerships.
  5. Engage students in reflection.
  6. Celebrate efforts.
  7. Have fun!

More Information about Service Learning

For detailed information about service learning, visit The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.

For project ideas and networking, check out these resources:

KooDooz (a social network for kids who want to make a difference)

Roots and Shoots (The Power of Youth is Global: The Roots & Shoots network connects youth of all ages who share a desire to create a better world.)