Service Learning Sequence

Service Learning is a teaching and learning methodology that connects classroom curriculum with identified community issues and needs. Service Learning engages students in projects that serve the community and build their social and academic capacities.

Service Learning begins with classroom content and moves into the community through the planning and implementation of a service project. A high quality Service Learning experience combines meaningful service with in-depth learning. The steps below outline the preparation, implementation and reflection stages of Service Learning.

  1. Review curriculum - Service Learning is not an extra program, it is a teaching strategy. Examine your curriculum and identify a topic, idea, or unit where learning can be enhanced through a well-integrated service project.

  2. Identify a project - There are many ways to develop a project for a Service Learning unit. One way is for you, the teacher, to develop a project. Another is to develop a project in collaboration with a local community organization. Another way is to engage students in the process of developing a project idea through brainstorming. Choose the one that is right for you and your class, but remember that the service needs to meet a community need.

  3. Tie to Standards - Once a project has been identified, connect the project to the standards to help you determine appropriate and measurable outcomes. A Service Learning project lends itself incredibly well to Applications for Learning in the state standards.

  4. Develop service and learning goals - Now that you have a project that will enhance your curricular unit, develop goals for both service and learning components of the project. (See the goals hand-out for a sample of service and learning goals.) These goals will help you measure your success during the unit.

  5. Project preparation - This stage will have two components: community learning and assigning project roles. Effective preparation for a service project includes learning about the non-profit organization or social issue that the students will be addressing through their service. You or your students can search the web for appropriate materials or you can ask a community partner to speak to the students. The second step is to assign roles/working groups to your students in order to complete the project.

  6. Service - Now it's time to implement the project.

  7. Reflection - It is important to reflect on the experience from general impressions to specific applications. What did we learn about the issues, ourselves and our place in the world? Reflection can take many forms including journaling, public presentations, art work, and facilitated classroom discussions. Reflection should also include an evaluative component. How did we do? Did we achieve our goals?

  8. Celebrate - Bonus! Have a party and invite community partners to attend. Celebrate your accomplishment.

Adapted from BOLD Chicago Institute, 2001