Giving Compass' Take:

The addition of service-learning in schools strengthens the curriculum and makes students not only better academically, but incorporates volunteering and social change into their education.

Are school systems near you incorporating service learning programs into their curricula?

There are many benefits to introducing volunteering into students' lives at an early age.

Last April, the entire faculty at Bettie Weaver Elementary School spent an afternoon making rice heating pads for local elderly residents, capes for foster children to help endure long hospital stays and jump ropes braided out of plastic bags that were later given to schools in Haiti by three of our teachers. We spent three hours working together toward a common goal: serving others.

In fall of 2016, when Chesterfield County Public Schools began reworking its strategic plans, the district challenged principals to “imagine tomorrow,” rethink what a school experience should be and determine what each school stood for.

At the beginning of our quest to re-imagine our school, we thought of service-learning as a curricular approach in which students use academic knowledge and skills to address community needs. But as we later learned, curriculum was only one piece of the puzzle; if we wanted to prioritize service-learning, we’d need to connect with our community, get buy-in and take action.

Our transition to project-based learning environments in 2013 allowed us to elevate student voice and choice and when students reflected on which projects resonated most, we learned that they cared most deeply about projects involving service toward others.

Incorporating service-learning into your practice is not a call to abandon traditional curriculum—it’s being conscious about the goals and looking for opportunities to work toward one.

Aligning projects to state or district standards and priorities is a necessity for many educators and there are supportive resources made available by organizations that have already done some of the heavy lifting for teachers.

Read the full article about service-learning by Lara Ivey and Lindsay Mottley at EdSurge.