Have you ever heard a high school student say that he or she can’t wait to be out of school? Maybe they want to take a break before college or maybe they are just done with education and feel that they are ready for the “real world”. Some of these students say they don’t think that school is preparing them for the “real world”. Adults usually discover that education does not stop after school, but is our education system preparing students for the world that is waiting for them? How can students be encouraged to continue to learn and to apply what they learn to their lives?
When I was visiting a school in my community, I noticed a sign that displayed the vision of our local school district: “We inspire a lifelong passion for learning.” The mission of the district was also stated, “We prepare all students to achieve excellence by providing the highest quality education while empowering each individual to positively impact their families, communities and the world.” These are strong words and impressive goals if that is truly what is being achieved.
After observing the effects of service learning on students, I’ve often wondered why it isn’t regularly incorporated into every curriculum from K-12. Service learning is a highly effective way to help students impact their communities.I don’t mean the extra “suggested activities” at the end of a unit that require extra planning for teachers. I’m talking about deliberate service learning lessons which incorporate learning objectives and result in a service project that benefits the community.
When students are afforded the opportunity to use classroom learning to impact real problems in the community, knowledge actually becomes power. Students not only develop a sense of purpose, but also the seeds for a “lifelong passion for learning” are planted.
Here’s what some students’ comments after completing service projects: “Why don’t we do this all the time?” “I learned that I can do this next time.” “That was awesome! Can we do it again?” “It was a lot of work, but it was fun.”
In public education, it is necessary to assess the performance and progress of students, but testing is not the ultimate purpose. The vision of educators should be to inspire that lifelong passion for learning and the mission, to empower students to positively impact their families, communities and the world. Service learning is one way to pursue that vision and to live out mission. Next week, I’ll discuss some very practical ways to incorporate service learning into the curriculum.