First things first, what is service learning? To put it professionally, service learning opportunities blend learning objectives with service to the community in order to produce a realistic and progressive learning experience with a view of meeting the needs in society.
In layman’s speak, these opportunities allow students to apply the theoretical lessons that they have learned in the classroom, practically in the community. These outside applications are what we call service learning. Students provide voluntary services in the community and non-profit organizations. The main purpose of service learning is to deepen the understanding of theories that students learn in the classroom.
Why should you consider doing service learning? What are the benefits to the student, the school and the community at large? There are numerous benefits that come with this method of education which apply to all the sectors mentioned above. Here are some of the items we will cover throughout the article.
- Benefits of service learning to students
- Components of service learning
- 10 service learning opportunities
- Culinary Arts
- Environmental Activities
- Computer Science
- Plug into a service learning opportunity that suits you
Benefits of Service Learning to Students
The benefits of service learning to students are numerous. Additionally, they play a pivotal role in the current student life and future career prospects that students have. Here are some of these immense benefits.
- Students gain hands-on skills and knowledge that come in handy later in their professional lives. By applying their theoretical knowledge in practical situations in an organization and community, a student becomes more conversant with real life situations.
- A wealth of experience and immersion in different cultures by interacting with a diverse group of people in the community. Students also get to create a wide social and professional network through their service learning attachments.
- There is an increased sense of civic duty amongst students, leading them to be better members of society. By providing their services voluntarily, students gain a sense of community and enjoy giving back to others
- Development of important social and life skills such as communication and leadership skills, citizenship skills and responsibility.
- It is a great opportunity to develop your career by putting to work what you have learned in a theory class
Components of Service Learning Opportunities
In order to have a successful learning opportunity, there are 4 steps that you must accomplish. These steps determine the success of your engagement and should make up the entire service learning process. They are;
Before taking on a project or immersing themselves in a community, students should prepare themselves adequately. The preparation should include in depth research on the community they will interact with, classroom discussions about what to expect and so on. By doing this, the students will be ready for the experience that awaits them in the field. They will also anticipate and prepare for any obstacles that may come up. Preparation includes setting goals and targets which will form a basis for assessment at the end of the service learning project.
After preparing themselves, students can now take on their service learning project with confidence. The school may arrange this activity through the teachers by contacting a community center. Once they make contact with a community center, the teachers will provide the possibilities to the students. They will do this by proposing one or a variety of possibilities for the students to choose from. Whatever the case, the students will be able to immerse themselves in the project and apply what they have learned as they go along.
After their service learning comes to an end, the students will take time to reflect on their experiences as well as their attitudes. The purpose of this exercise is vital to their learning because it will unearth their feelings and attitudes to their chosen career path. It is also a good time for the students to handle any feelings of inadequacy they may be having. Reflecting should be a continuous process throughout the attachment.
A critical step in this process involves making an evaluation based on the information or evidence gathered. Here the students will assess the needs of the community as well as the assets of the organization they were volunteering at. Then, the students will assess the impact of their service by finding out if they met any of the goals that they set. It is also a good time for the students to assess whether they learned what they set out to in the first place, as well as any new learnings. Finally, the students should assess if the experience shifted their values, attitudes and belief systems in any way.
10 Service Learning Opportunities to Consider
The benefits of service learning to a community are endless. They provide a tremendous way of learning for students that theoretical knowledge alone could not provide. That said, there are various opportunities to consider for this kind of community service. Here are 10 excellent categories that work great for any student.
Scientific research has shown that certain colors work well together to produce healing qualities for emotional and psychological traumas. Art students can volunteer to develop an art program at a shelter for domestic violence survivors or troubled teens. They can create a program that runs for a couple of weeks and gather evidence from their findings. Apart from using colors to heal, art students can also volunteer to hold painting classes in community centers to help hone art skills in the community.
Financial literacy skills are important in any community. Business students can create a program to teach financial literacy skills to members of society. These skills will come in handy whether they run businesses or just to manage a budget for the home. Other business skills that students can teach voluntarily in the community are, how to start and run a successful small business as well as how to manage taxes. Budgeting and how to increase one’s income are also another vital skill that business students can impart to the community via service learning.
Service Learning Opportunities in Culinary Arts
Food is a universal language, and students can create a program to teach vital food lessons to the community. Teaching how to create healthful yet affordable meals is one way of benefiting the community. Another way to impart culinary arts to the community is by teaching how to stretch a tight budget without compromising the diet of a household. In a community where there are feeding programs, students can volunteer to cook and distribute food here on a regular basis throughout their service learning attachment.
Every community needs nursing care, and providing this service voluntarily is of great benefit. Nursing students may choose to offer their services to a community health center. They can give basic services such as blood pressure tests and wellness checks. Moreover, nurses may also hold talks on how to live well through healthy eating, exercise and routine physical check ups. Community days such as Veteran Runs and Relay competitions are a good place to impart their nursing care and talks. Other opportunities that are great for nursing students to offer free services are at family planning clinics and elderly people’s homes.
Keeping the environment clean is a great way to offer voluntary services. Picking up trash in a town square, setting up bins in strategic places and so on. Students can also choose a location that they will maintain by keeping it free from trash, planting trees and flowers and so on. Environmental activities such as beautification projects provide great community service opportunities for students. Teaching elementary students the value of maintaining their environment is also another way to offer volunteer services in this category.
Service Learning Opportunities in Psychology
Maintaining a service hotline needs volunteers regularly. This is an area that psychology students can work very well in. Suicide help lines, domestic violence help lines and so on are always up for volunteers to man. Elementary schools also need lots of support in terms of counseling for bullying cases and drug abuse. Psychology students have a great opportunity to put their learned knowledge to practical use by providing counseling services to various people who need these services yet cannot afford to engage a professional counselor. Troubled families will also benefit from the voluntary services of psychology students.
Create a service where math students offer after school tutoring math lessons to students in elementary school. This program is usually great to help students encountering difficulties in the subject. However, in order to make it more appealing, you can turn it into a fun math club with participation bonuses for the children in the community. Include activities such as math games to make the subject fun to these students. By making math a fun subject, even the weakest math student starts to love and enjoy the subject. If there are opportunities to be a temporary math teacher in a local school, consider it. It would be a great service learning plug for college students.
English as a second language tutors are not easy or cheap to come by. By offering their services as ESL tutors, college students will be able to offer individuals hoping to master their English skills valuable assistance. Immigrants looking to become American citizens need to pass a standard English test, and such tutoring services will come in handy for them. Elementary school students who need extra tutoring in English will also benefit from service learning attaches in their schools at no extra cost. Developing brochures for non-profits is also a great way to offer English skills to the community at large.
Service Learning Opportunities in Computer Science
Technology drives the world that we live in today. In almost every sector, having basic computer science and IT skills is necessary. Therefore, learning the technology behind various apps and online platforms for networking and business is an essential skill. Computer science students can set up computer labs in the community to teach basic skills to members of the community. Learning the Microsoft Office suite is also important and IT students can easily create classes for the same. Another necessary skill especially for small business owners is to learn how to optimize the internet for profitability. These are some of the IT skills that the community needs and that Computer Science students can use as a service learning platform.
Dance brings communities together very easily. Young people and even the old naturally enjoy dancing, even if they have two left feet. Create dance competitions for teens to promote healthy competition and keep teens away from other vices that any free time exposes them to. Introduce healthy dance classes in elderly people’s homes or local nursing homes with the help of the in-house medical teams. Fundraisers centered on dance are another interesting way to incorporate dance in the community and bring people together for a fun and fulfilling event.
Plug Into Service Learning Opportunities That Suit You
If you were wondering where to plug in for your service learning this semester, the options listed above should give you an idea. Remember, your degree program should guide you where to plug in for your service learning attachment. Service learning opportunities are an excellent way to give back to the community while putting your learned knowledge to good use.
The opportunities listed above barely scratch the surface of what you can do to create a difference in the community. Other miscellaneous opportunities we have not discussed include grocery shopping for the elderly, book drives and creating book clubs, supporting veterans and so on. If you are good with children, reading to elementary school children is another great way to give back to the community.
If you are still not clear on what exactly you want to participate in your service learning attachment, consult your dean of students for further guidance. You will find your place to plug in with further guidance.