Service Learning Recommendations from the Golden Apple
Class of 2001
- In formulating a Service Learning program, consider global questions
"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.
"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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
- Consider having current character education programs subsumed under
Service Learning and connecting them to real world experiences of serving
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.