Service-learning is a teaching strategy sweeping the nation that links community service to formal and informal education.
"Service-learning is an opportunity for young people to meet community needs while providing for purposeful educational growth," says LSU AgCenter 4-H youth volunteer expert Dr. Janet Fox.
As a community development model, service-learning takes on real-life issues, such as pollution control, hunger, diversity and homelessness, Fox explains.
Whether the goal is academic, civic engagement, personal development or career exploration, youth benefit greatly from their involvement in service-learning projects, according to various studies, she adds.
"The LSU AgCenter 4-H program understands the benefits of service-learning, which is why service-learning has been adopted as a statewide focus for the coming years," Fox says. The volunteer expert notes that parishes are adopting service-learning projects such as addressing hunger, helping with hurricane recovery, carrying out environmental projects and promoting literacy.
"Each parish’s program is set up to meet the unique needs of local communities," she explains.
Studies have found that elementary and middle school students who participated in service-learning developed a great sense of civic responsibility and ethic of service. They better understood how government works. They also improved their problem-solving skills.
High school students who participated in high-quality service-learning programs developed more sophisticated understandings of socio-historical contexts, were likely to think about politics and morality in society and were likely to consider how to effect social change.
Overall, case studies have found that students in service-learning projects made gains in personal development and reported a higher sense of responsibility to their school than did nonparticipants. They grew in self-esteem and were more likely to treat others kindly.
Service-learning participation is associated with higher scores on the state test of basic skills and increases on student achievement tests in language arts and/or reading. Students gained career skills, communication skills and a positive work orientation.
"Service-learning provides important opportunities to learn beyond the classroom while serving others," Fox says.
Source: Janet Fox (225) 578-6751, or Jfox@agcenter.lsu.edu
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture