A Picture is Worth a… Service Learning Idea!

The school year is well underway, and likely you have taken some time to get to know your students. You have discovered a little about their interests, skills, and talents and how they can be applied to the service learning process (see our “Back-to-Service” post for an activity to foster this). It may be time to investigate a need within the community that your students are passionate about supporting.

There are many ways that a social issue can come to light. Perhaps it is through a class novel’s theme or as a result of a peculiar lab experiment. Maybe it will be through the personal experience of a student which has been shared with the class. Or, perhaps, the community need that sparks the class’s interest will be discovered through a photo.

We’ve all heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Can it be applied to service learning? Can an image move someone to action? Surely, we’ve all experienced a time when a photograph has deeply moved us. If you are looking to tap into students’ motivation for service, why not try a photo?


What social issues might be present in this Los Angeles photo?

When you set out to discover a need in the community, observation is an important tool. Try looking around to see how many social issues are apparent in your everyday commute to work. Included here are a few examples that might represent a need or issue in someone’s immediate community. You could try the same exercise and share your photos with students. Then, discuss if they agree with or relate to your observations. Or, better yet, ask your students to be the detectives and document the needs they observe in their own surroundings. Maybe the class will discover a theme that is present in many of their photos, or there will be an image so striking that it could move a class to action.


Perhaps this image sparks a discussion about healthcare.

Alternatively, as students photograph, they might discover a helpful solution to a known issue in their community- one that they think is worth sharing with their class, family, school or neighborhood, and this becomes a service mission.


A great solution to promote reusable water bottles at your school?

Keep in mind- no matter what method is being used to discover and investigate a community need, don’t forget to photograph the process, even in these early stages. You may just find that a picture is worth a thousand memories of the service learning journey too!


Students investigate wildlife at the Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey.

What other lessons using visual images and photography could be used to aid your service learning curriculum? Return to the top to leave a comment and share an idea.

One response

  1. […] lesson (written for a service-learning organization that helps teachers integrate service into their […]

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