Service Learning in Our Community

One learning area that is important for teachers to engage students in is service learning. What is service learning? Service learning is a way for students to do something that betters their community AND engages students in academic learning.  It takes the service and educational pieces and puts them together into one project. I try to include a “service learning” component at least three times a year that coincide with the curriculum.  My goal is to have the students come up with ideas, but it takes time to get them thinking “big” to see projects in the community.

The beginning of the year is a great time to engage the students in service learning. The first project we did was a great opportunity for students to begin developing their civic skills.  Since we’re starting the year out building community and learning about citizenship, the first project based learning unit was titled: Cool with School Rules!   This was a fun unit to start the year off.

The school principal came into my class to discuss school wide behavior expectations.  As part of this conversation, she gave the kids a “charge” to design and deliver some media that would teach all the students in the school and those in the community the Pioneer PEAK Expectations.  The kids were very excited to get started with this project!

Service learning is a way for students to do something that betters their community AND engages students in academic learning. 

As we began this project, the students had to do some research about the school wide expectations.  I printed off the current expectations for students to review.  As the kids were looking over the expectations, they noticed a few “old” guidelines.  They asked about discussing this with the principal.  So, I sent the students to discuss these errors with the principal, and she allowed them to make updates.  Boy . . . talk about ownership!

cooperative learning, project based learning
Students engage in discussion about their project.

In order to make certain our work reaches all learners, we sought the support of a few guests.  Since some of our students are blind or deaf, I asked the district vision teacher to work with my students on learning about vision challenges AND come up with ways for them to make their media work accessible to blind students.  I also asked a hard of hearing parent to come in and teach my class sign language AND discuss ways to make their project accessible to deaf students.  This process did take several days, but the kids learned a lot about differences, empathy, and presenting work to be accessible.

cooperative learning, braille, project based learning

Students examine books written in braille.

cooperative learning, project based learning
Students learning about and practicing sign language.

It was time for students to choose topics and work with a partner to prepare a visual that would teach people in our school community about the Pioneer PEAK Expectations.  Students had a variety of options to present their work.  Most students decided to prepare a poster and one group made a book.

cooperative learning, project based learning
Students learn how to use braille materials to help with visually impaired student learning.

Once this work was done, students prepared visual prototype that was accessible to all learners to teach the expectations.  Not only did students connect this project to classroom and school expectations, but they also learned how these are expectations for our larger community, too.

NOTE:  We did have quite a few guest speakers in the class (also since this was the beginning of the school year and district admin wanted to “see” how the class was going) that first month.  When I do this project again, I would certainly include a police officer to discuss following rules and procedures and why these are important –  another community focus point.

guest speak, project based learning
Students listen and ask questions of a district leader when he stops to visit our classroom.

Students spent time working on the projects to ensure they were top notch – this included planning, designing a prototype, and preparing the final product. I wanted to make sure the students understood that you just don’t go from idea to finished product in a day.  It does take time.  During this process, students presented their prototype to the class.  Their peers provided constructive criticism for each group as they presented.  I was excited to hear the comments the students made to support each other.  As a result, I decided to have the students make a project rubric that they would all use to evaluate their projects for this unit and future learning units.  They were doing this rubric when providing comments.  We just formalized it onto a piece of paper.  I love when students take ownership of their learning!!

The students absolutely LOVED working together and doing such an IMPORTANT task with their project.  Students placed their projects around the school for all learners to access.  They were certainly proud of their work!!

Check this post out for the second visual project related to this unit!

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Annette Durbin

Annette has been an educator for more than 30 years working in the PK-6 elementary classroom, K-12 multi-language learner instructional specialist, district leadership, university professor, as well as a mentor for teachers nationwide. A National Board Certificated Teacher, Annette focuses her research on accelerating learning and advancing achievement, personalizing instruction, technology, and leadership in the education field.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Tina

    Love this! Kids should understand that being in service of others is a fundamental part of a working society.

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thanks for stopping by, Tina! I totally agree. Giving of ourself for the better good of our community is important. Right on!!

      ~ Annette

  2. Monica

    What a fun and educational experience. To be able to do something geared towards kids who are deaf are blind must be harder. Great job!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thanks!! The kids learn about differences and how important it is to treat others with respect regardless of our difference.

      Thanks for stopping by!!
      ~ Annette

  3. Annette Durbin

    Hello Samanatha, I completely agree. Taking the time to allow opportunities for students to “feel good” about giving back to others is something often not provided. That feeling you get from knowing that you’ve done something good for others is sooo important. We did two other service projects – Hats for Secret Santa and Veggies for the Community – are other projects we did, too.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    ~ Annette

  4. Jennifer

    What a great way for a class to grow together for a good purpose. I love this type of learning and growing! Good idea!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thanks, Jennifer!! This is a great opportunity to build community while working together! The kids had soooo much fun learning together. The hands on, student generated innovative ideas made this a unique project.
      ~ Annette

  5. Ashley Reese

    I hadn’t ever heard of service learning before. That’s a really unique concept. I’m sure it benefits a lot of people!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Hello, Ashley! Yes, sometimes fundraising projects are done, but they aren’t tied to learning. That learning component is important. So when learning is involved and the project supports the community, it’s a win-win! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!!!
      ~ Annette

  6. gail

    This was a great project from start to finish!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thanks, Gail!! The kids had a lot of fun, and this was giving back to our community.
      ~ Annette

  7. Julie

    I love this!! I actually do a class this summer called Project Based Learning, all about doing projects within the classroom versus bringing it home. I love this idea!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Hello Julie!! Thanks!! I would love to hear what you are doing with project based learning, too. The class I teach is blended learning and project based learning. I love teaching this way!!!

      ~ Annette

  8. Gretchen

    Hi Annette,

    I too have my students do service learning. I teach 5th-grade Humanities. This year my students will be doing individual “Impact” projects. After learning about six major issues concerning our world (Plastic pollution, water scarcity, climate change, animal extinction, poverty, lack of education globally) at the beginning of the year, the students will brainstorm the subject they want to focus on and narrow it down into a year-long project. They will have benchmarks each week and bi-monthly one-on-one check-ins with me. At mid-year they will do a mini presentation (trifold poster or such) to showcase their idea. At the end of the year they will present a media-based presentation to me, their parents and faculty. I’m really excited about implementing next year.

    1. Annette Durbin

      Gretchen, that is soo EXCITING!!! I love doing service learning projects with my kids, too. It really gives them that sense of learning purpose – meaningful work AND they have lots of fun sharing their learning. I’ll post more about our projects this year, but I’d love to hear more about yours as the kids get into the work.

      Thanks for stopping by and chatting!!

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