Service Learning Projects
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Service Learning is a teaching pedagogy that uses community service as a way to teach classroom content. Service-learning can help students apply ideas they learned in the classroom and practice lifelong skills. It is also a great way to incorporate ideas from multiple subjects into one project. Service-learning can be done directly (like tutoring), indirectly (like cleaning up a local park), or even by raising awareness of a community issue (encouraging recycling or water conservation through posters). The big difference between service-learning and community service is that service-based learning teaches and reinforces content taught in class.
There are many different service projects that can be used to help students learn content standards. I will go through different subjects and provide lists of ideas of service projects that can reinforce concepts taught in each subject. Remember, one of the great things about service-based learning is that they often reinforce and combine skills from multiple subjects...so just because a project is placed in one subject doesn’t mean that there aren’t also skills that can be reinforced from other subjects as well. Read on for ideas on how you can incorporate service learning in your classroom.
Reading and ELA:
Reading Buddies- Reading buddies is a set up where a classroom of older students reads to a group of younger students. This is a wonderful opportunity for students in the older class, who may normally be in partnerships where they are getting lots of help, to have an opportunity to he the helper. It is also great for younger students to get one-one reading time. This can be as standard focused as the teachers want. The students can share what they have been learning in their class during reading, or focus on a specific topic. Make sure to allow at least some student choice. One of the best reasons for reading buddies is increased reading motivation. For both the older and younger kids, reading may have become a bit of a chore. It can be difficult to foster a love for reading while also teaching rigorous reading standards, but this is a chance for students young and old to come together and enjoy a story. It can show students the connections that come between people as they enjoy a story together.
Writing Letters- There are lots of different ways to write letters to help the community. Students can write thank you cards to people who work in service jobs in the school or community. They can have pen pals with students from different cultures or even with a person in a nursing home. They could write cards for sick classmates or families dealing with illnesses in the community. Students could write cards to go with holiday donations. Letter writing is an important skill for students because the formal format of letter writing is frequently used in resumes and professional emails and it is a great way for students to use writing to communicate conversationally with another person (very important life skill). Letter writing is a great way to teach students how to ask questions about the other person and how to respond to ideas they wrote about and then add in their own information.
Raising Awareness- Raising awareness on a cause that is important to the students and the community is a great way to provide community service, while teaching persuasive writing. As a teacher you can use this to help students become aware of important topics (environmental, health, social, etc.) while also teaching them aspects of persuasive writing and advertisements.
Peer Tutoring- Peer tutoring can be a great way for students to gain confidence in the content they are learning in class. It is a great way to push the students who are ahead, because teaching a concept is more difficult than just understanding it. If older students tutor younger students it can also be a great way for the older students to be a mentor and to practice fundamental math skills.
Fundraising- All projects that require administrative work, involve math skills. students need to organize money and figure out how much things cost and what the profit will be. Fundraising for a school event or community project requires math that is very applicable to life and business.
Community Cleanups- Community clean ups are simple ways to help the community and they are a great way to get family involvement as well. A community clean up can help parents and kids learn about many different topics with a community clean up including; plants, ecosystems, recycling, energy types, etc.
Energy-Saving Projects- There are lots of really cool STEM projects that students can do to learn about alternative energy sources...see if you can use a project to help meet a community need….especially great for older students. Especially on a school wide basis you can have your kids help teach others and practice energy saving habits (turning off lights and projectors for example).
Recycling Projects- While learning about resources, processes or the environment, students can lead projects to promote recycling in the school and the community. Students can even get engineering practice by creating useful things out of recycled objects.
Projects Helping Animals-This can be a very engaging project for students who enjoy learning about animals. Help students get connected with local animal shelters so that they can help and learn responsibility and animal care. Students could also coordinate with the local zoo or aquarium for volunteer opportunities or projects that can help promote environmental awareness or help animals. Animal volunteer projects can be a great tie in to science topics like habitat, genetics, evolution/natural selection, or other topics in biology.
Projects Increasing Cultural Awareness-These can be anything from helping or connecting with students from another country, to having students share some of their culture with a community group, or helping refugees depending on where you live. These activities can be so important for students, because culture is an abstract concept that, even as adults, we can be unaware of how it is affecting us. As we expose students to different cultures we give them an opportunity to reflect on themselves and improve the culture within our community.
Projects Promoting Social Justice- This can be helping different demographics like helping students who are underprivileged (birthday boxes or canned food drives for homeless shelters, collecting toys or school supplies for kids who may not have them, even volunteering tutoring or recreational services to students who may not be able to afford to pay for those sorts of experiences.
Another demographic that students may not think too much about, but can be important to the community is the elderly people in our community. Having students work with adults from an older generation can be wonderful for both demographics. The younger children can share their talents and experiences and bring in a wonderful cheer and the elderly can help bring history to life for the students and open their eyes to changes that have happened in the world.
Projects Working with Government Groups- Learning about civic leadership and responsibility is a very important part of a child’s education. There are many volunteer opportunities within the government in many different content areas. Teachers can use a service project from almost any area to teach civic responsibility, democracy and leadership.
Here is a quick list of Service Learning for Specialty Classes: SOme ideas are repeats that could be incorporated into other projects, some are new.
P.E and Health:
Volunteer at Food Banks
Working in Hospitals or Other Health Facilities
Local Performances- Fundraising or free-shelters, nursing homes, fire stations…
Teaching music/music lessons
Spread Kindness on Social Media
Raise Awareness of Specific Issues Facing the Community