With all the coverage project-based learning gets these days, it doesn’t seem like you hear as much about service learning. But I’d argue that adding a service component to any project can deepen learning while at the same time contributing positively to the community. True service learning goes beyond basic volunteerism; it’s a form of experiential learning where students interact with subject area content, apply new skills, and give back to the community at large.
One of my most memorable years in the classroom was centered around a year-long service project. Our 4th grade classroom partnered with a local state park to learn about invasive species and their impact on our natural surroundings. Through the year, we walked back and forth to the park to identify native plants, eradicate invasive species, and discover what we could do in our community to help. In the spring, we worked with students from an alternative high school to remove invasive species from an adjoining parcel of land and replace it with native plants we started from clippings.
Service learning opportunities in the digital age are evolving as technology changes the scope of community and increases potential opportunities. Consider the following ideas:
- Local technology mentoring
Kids Involved in Doing Service (KIDS) created an extensive list of technology-related service learning ideas. One of my favorites: “Each technology student developed a computer mentoring relationship with 2-3 teachers in the district. Students taught teachers how to use different programs and suggested possible new classroom lessons using computer technology.”
- Technology projects to raise awareness locally and support a cause
In this blog, a teacher describes a “5th grade Environmental Project” where students partner with community organizations to research and learn more about a topic they are interested in. Students then give back by educating their community or even raising money for a cause through sales of a movie they produce!
- Collaborative partnerships with distant peers
Videoconferencing with services like Skype or Google Hangouts makes our world smaller than ever. Services like ePals even help set up connections between classrooms. Imagine the learning and service possibilities in collaborating with a far off classroom.
What do you think? How have you included service learning in your classroom? In what ways can technology be embedded in service learning projects?