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Service Learning Teaching Strategies

Janelle Cox

Service learning is one of many teaching strategies that educators use that combines classroom instruction with community service. How it works is that students participate in projects in their local community while applying concepts that were learned in the classroom. There are many benefits to these teaching strategies; students learn effective problem-solving skills, as well as management and planning skills, all the while serving their community. Service learning often gets mistaken for community service.  While it is a service to the community, the difference is that students do more than just pick up trash on the highway. They analyze what they found, figure out how they can reduce pollution, then reflect upon what they experienced. The goal is for students to gain a deeper understanding of civic responsibility and how it can have a powerful impact on their future. Here are a few service-learning projects and teaching strategies that can help your students truly understand and experience their civic responsibility.

Soap Drive Teaching Strategies

A wonderful foundation called Clean the World started a very successful campaign that donates soap to homeless shelters or places abroad.  According to their website, “About every 15 seconds, a child dies from a disease that could have been prevented with proper hygiene.” For this service-learning project, students can collect unused soap and donate it to this wonderful cause. In the classroom, students can learn about how improper hygiene can lead to disease and try to figure out alternative ways that they can help. Visit the site to see how you can get started on the project with your students.

Helping in the Hospital

An amazing way to brighten the smile of an ill child is to create a service learning project in the hospital where students can offer support to these children. In the classroom, students can learn about how pediatric hospitals take care of the seriously ill, as well what the roles of the health care providers and volunteers are. They can also come up with a plan to raise and promote a service program for these children. This project will not only benefit the seriously ill, but your students as well. The morals and values that they will learn from this heart-wrenching experience they will take with them forever.

Kid Business

For this service learning project, students will team up with a partner to create their own business and sell their items for profit to give to a charity of their choice. Each team must create a product or products to sell, then create a commercial to promote their product. Students can make bracelets, frames, baked goods, or whatever they want. The commercial can be made on the class iPad with iMovie, and can be shown to the school as a way to promote what they are selling. Students would then sell their items after school and take all of their profits and donate to their charity. The key to this service project is what happens after it’s completed. Students should meet the charity in person to hand over the funds that were made. This face-to-face interaction will help solidify the experience, and they will be able to physically see what they have done for someone in need.

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Growing School Lunches

The school lunch has gotten a bad rap for being unhealthy for some time now. Today, in many schools across the nation, educators and parents are working hard to make sure the school lunch is a healthy lunch. Some schools are going as far as growing their own crops to contribute to the school lunch. For this service project, students will grow their own vegetables and a herb garden. This not only teaches students about the life cycle of a plant and how it grows, but it also shows students how it’s possible to eat healthy, as well as use their leftovers to compost, which will help flourish their garden.

Helping the Elderly

The elderly is a fabulous group of adults who are lonely and can use some attention. For this service learning project, students will improve their reading skills by taking a field trip to the local nursing home to read to its residents. In the classroom, students can brainstorm how else they could be an asset for the elderly besides just reading to them. They may choose to play a game with them, draw pictures or make cards for them, or even help them tidy up their rooms. Once they have completed their mission, make sure to take some time for the students to reflect upon their experience.

Have you used any service-learning teaching strategies in your classroom? Please share your experiences in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.