By Jessica Lyons
What is Service Learning?
Service learning gives students a chance to learn through volunteer work as colleges and universities incorporate service learning into their classes. Some teachers might include a small service learning project as part of their syllabi, such requiring students to volunteer for one day, after which they write papers about how the experience connected to the course's materials. At some schools, like Duke University, there are specific service learning courses where it is a larger component of the class. Students enrolled in a service learning course at Duke must complete at least 20 hours of volunteer work, which is then reflected on as part of their class assignments.
Even students who don't have to complete service learning as part of their course requirements might still choose to participate. For example, Bates College helps students interested in volunteering through service learning find opportunities to get involved. Even though it's not for credit, these students are just interested in giving back and connecting the experience to their studies.
How Do Students Benefit?
One way that service learning helps students is by further engaging them in their studies as they take learning out of the classroom and apply it to real world situations. These programs can be an effective way to hold students' interest in course work, particularly for those who get bored easily by sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures. They might also better understand material as they see it put to use.
Service learning programs can also help reinforce a sense of civic responsibility in students that might remain with them even after they've finished the service required for their class. Once these students see the impact they can have on the community, they could be interested in volunteering in other ways to continue to be positive forces in the world.
Students might also feel more confident in their own abilities after completing their service, which could boost their self-esteem. Improved self-esteem could, in turn, translate to better grades as students feel more certain about what they are able to accomplish.
How Does the Community Benefit?
Many community organizations can always use more help, so student volunteers are surely welcomed with open arms. These students provide extra support so local organizations can make an even greater impact on the community. Service learning programs could involve students doing a wide variety of activities, like picking up trash, beautifying parks, mentoring local children, promoting recycling activities or assisting the elderly. All of these projects help improve the quality of life for community residents.
There are many other ways colleges and universities provide community service.