Service learning offers students authentic opportunities to construct their own knowledge versus being told the “right” answer. With service learning, there often isn’t one right answer, outcomes are open-ended and definitions are subjective and changeable. In fact, with service learning, students are able to continuously construct and deconstruct what they know through practices like research and reflection embedded in this learning process.
At ECSL’s fall meeting participants were offered many opportunities to experience this for themselves. First, participants worked together to build definitions of community service versus service learning. Below is an example of how people represented the similarities and differences between these two concepts.
Let members of your own school community construct their understanding of community service and service learning by seeing this activity in action here. Added bonus: the method can be adapted to define and distinguish many other concepts in your classroom, too!
Afterwards, and the highlight of the meeting, was the opportunity to hear stories of how three student groups engaged in service learning at their respective schools. With each presentation, their ownership of the process shined through. These students experienced the power of constructing knowledge through service learning. Featured at the meeting were an elementary water awareness project, a middle school STEAM partnership with a local charter school, and a high school sustainability audit with a local business. You can find footage of these stories from the meeting here. Witness the 5 Stages of Service Learning in action and consider how these experiences can be adapted to meet the needs of your grade level and curriculum.
Later, participants engaged in round table conversations to address each others’ questions surrounding their service learning practices. Participants self-selected into topics that were on their minds. Just like service learning itself, there was no expectation for one right answer to the issues brought forth. Instead, the conversations served to pool member’s collective knowledge and experiences and help them develop tools to address these areas of service learning. The photos below reveal how some groups represented their conversations.
“How do we get stakeholders at our school to see service learning as an integrated, essential element of learning rather than an add-on to the curriculum?”
“What is it that sparks students’ interest and investment in service learning?”
See how ECSL structured these open-ended round table discussions about the issues that mattered most to the participants here.
ECSL exists to bring service learning to life- through real-time stories, networking and support for your program challenges. At this meeting, your experiences were at the heart of the conversation. We look forward to continuing the dialogue at our winter workshop on February 2nd, 2016!