Service Learning Recommendations from the Golden Apple
Class of 2001

  1. In formulating a Service Learning program, consider global questions such as:

    "How will the Service Learning experience change the student's life?" If the experience seems superficial, unconnected to anything the student values or can come to value, or unconnected to helping others, it should probably not be offered in the list of possible activities.

  2. "How will the Service Learning project genuinely improve the community?" If it isn't really helping anyone in a substantive and meaningful way, is unwelcome or intrusive, it should not be offered.

  3. Study successful model programs and isolate the essential elements. Create several model programs to test possible approaches for a trial period. Evaluate and offer the best options community-wide.

  4. Schedule more time for Service Learning by tying it to the existing academic curriculum in a complementary, mutually beneficial way. Too little time given to Service Learning activities marginalizes the program and denies its value to students and the community.

  5. Insure that teachers have planning time sufficient to allow them to develop their own Service Learning curricula based on best practices in Service Learning and on knowledge of various successful models.

  6. Service Learning should be student-centered and begin with each student developing a better sense of him or her self and of his or her community.

  7. As much as 50% of the Service Learning time should involve student self-assessment, learning interpersonal skills, experiencing a connection to academic content, and in teacher-student reflection on experience. Ask, "What will the students and teachers read/view to better understand the ideal of service, the particular type of service that will be offered and the community and individuals on whose behalf the service will be offered?"

  8. A project orientation is preferable to having students accumulate disconnected hours that include everything from bringing in food at Thanksgiving to attending a school basketball game. Projects ought to include opportunities for students to take on a longer term issue/problem, study it, develop solutions, and help others long enough to develop a deep understanding of what their service has been about.

  9. A good Service Learning program also provides time and resources to celebrate the successful completion of a service learning project and to look toward the future. Celebration is part of the reflective process and provides incentive to serve again.

  10. Establish a hands-on, field based Service Learning office within large school systems to facilitate Service Learning in the schools. This "office" will help teachers develop a common language about Service Learning, integrate curriculum, conduct assessments, make community contacts, conduct follow-up in the community and celebrate completed service learning projects. A team of Service Learning experts could serve as coaches and sounding boards for teachers implementing Service Learning in classes.

  11. Develop a closer link between a Service Learning requirement and the content of the advisory program. Advisory is an appropriate place where service learning can be tied to the existing academic curriculum. That is preferable to requiring all core subject teachers to fold service learning into their curricula. However, a service component could be an exciting option for core subject teachers who wish to include it in their classes, and schools could encourage and support their work.

  12. Recognize Service Learning and advisory as ways to alleviate the isolation/alienation of students. A good program should result in higher attendance and graduation rates, better school/community relations, and students who graduate with a better idea of what they want to do in life. The project orientation also allows students to practice working in groups, getting to know others with service as a common thread instead of the more typical bonds of grade level, academic ability, gang affiliation, etc.

  13. Consider having current character education programs subsumed under Service Learning and connecting them to real world experiences of serving the community.

  14. Provide teachers professional development in authentic pedagogy and Service Learning, particularly teachers new to the system. Genuine teacher buy-in is necessary for a successful program.

  15. Benchmark the Service Learning program against the principles of authentic pedagogy: Service Learning curricula should offer all students experiences of genuine service to the community and be based on community identified needs and on student talents and interests. Service Learning activities should benefit the community and help students develop skills and dispositions that will serve them well in life.

  16. Provide recognition for teachers and school teams who develop ways to incorporate Service Learning in their curricula. Provide incentives for Service Learning through small grants to run the projects, or provide teachers with access to grant writers who will process grant applications to get projects funded. Award CPDUs for meeting community involvement goals and for time spent beyond the school day.

  17. Bottom line: The object of a Service Learning program should be to teach young people to become responsible, compassionate and active citizens, not to see that they accumulate 40 hours of service.

These recommendations were made by the following Chicago area teachers after spending a semester of study with the Golden Apple Foundation.

Jim Arey, Elk Grove H.S.; Dean Auriemma, Homewood-Flossmore H.S.; Murray Fisher, Southside Occupational Academy; Devora Freeman, Lawrence Hall Therapeutic Day School; Jackie Gnant, DuSable H.S.; Erin Kelly, Tinley Park H.S.; Liz Kirby, Kenwood Academy; Sarah Levine, Curie Metro H.S.; Rito Martinez, Morton East H.S.; Tracy Van Duinen, Austin Community H.S.