What is service learning? According to the National Youth Leadership Council, it’s “a philosophy, method and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.”
In simpler terms, service learning is an educational method that combines academic goals with community service projects. Lessons about relevant community issues are combined with existing course content to optimize the academic experience.
At Grace Christian School our teachers provide real-world examples of the curriculum they’re teaching. Students are given a new perspective on what they’re learning and will then apply it to the projects they work on.
In our 7th grade Civics classes student participate in six-week course Youth in Philanthropy. This course allows students to learn about their passions and interests while teaching:
- the history of philanthropy
- the differences in the sectors of society (nonprofit, for profit, government)
- how to interview a philanthropist?
- writing a personal mission statement
Classmates are grouped based on common interests and create “case for support” presentations for an imaginary $500 to support local charities. The class votes by secret ballot for the group with the best presentation. At the end of the course students are actually able to award their local charity $500 Through a grant from the Community Foundation. The transformation our 7th grade students have after the completion of the six weeks is remarkable. Our teachers and administrators are grateful to witness such change and growth in these students as this prepares them to be the leaders of our school in their 8th grade year.
Civics class is not the only class where our students are actively engaged in service learning. Our youngest students in the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes learn how to share their love and kindness with others. Our youngest classes annually make and deliver lunch bags filled with fresh food for our local homeless shelter. A lunch bag colorfully decorated with a handmade sandwich, chips, apple and water bottle all assembled by their own tiny hands. This is where the teaching begins. The children pray over the bags before they are delivered to the shelter. Our students are actively being taught the Biblical verse from the Mathew 14:16 But Jesus said to them. “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”
This is a small snap shot of how we teach Service Learning at Grace Christian School. There are so many more examples of how these experiences compliment and enrich the daily teaching.
The beauty of service learning is that something real and concrete is occurring. When students are engaged both emotionally and intellectually they light up. What they have learned in school suddenly matters and engages their minds and their hearts.