Service Learning

Community Engagement

UDL 3.2 UDL 3.4

Service Learning is when students apply content knowledge and skills in real-world environments in order to benefit others. When implementing Service Learning the teacher first determines the learning goals for the project and establishes any relationships with community members necessary to facilitate the Service Learning project. The teacher then introduces the project to students and guides them in completing the objectives. For example, to build students’ reading fluency and narrative writing skills a teacher can design a learning opportunity where students read stories they have authored to residents at a nearby nursing home. Service Learning gives students a deeper understanding and appreciation of curriculum content by demonstrating how this knowledge is useful in their lives and for their community. Service Learning also helps students develop valuable life skills (e.g., communication, time management, etc.) and promotes a sense of civic responsibility.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Self-Monitoring Tool

Specific Routine Picture Schedule

A picture schedule template to use for daily routines with students who need additional visual support.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Implementation Tips

Specific Learning Targets
Target specific learning goals during Service Learning projects. While planning, identify content standards that students have recently learned and embed them into the routines and activities of the projects. For example, after a unit on persuasive writing, students can collaborate with a community organization to write proposals to the city for new projects.
Community Connection
Design Service Learning projects that require students to collaborate with respected leaders in their community or school (e.g., school security officer, local chef, small business owner, etc.). You can also ask students’ parents help to identify and recruit community partners. Collaborative Service Learning projects encourage students to envision how their knowledge might be applied in specific careers, and help students form positive relationships with community members.
Student-Generated Projects
Involve students in developing Service Learning projects. After completing a lesson or unit, ask students to brainstorm ideas for how the skills or knowledge learned might be used to help others in their community. The class can choose one Service Learning project or small groups can implement different projects all focused on the same learning goal.
Task Schedule
Use task schedules to help students learn and follow the routines within Service Learning projects. A task schedule simplifies a complex task by dividing it into its components so that students know exactly how to complete the larger task. To write a task schedule, define the task and then sequentially list every step needed to complete the task. You can also create a visual task schedule by including pictures that correspond with each step.
Give students multiple reflection opportunities that are ongoing and encourage critical thinking. During a project, encourage students to reflect on their progress, identify new learnings or challenges, and plan next steps by writing in journals or discussing in small groups. Set aside time after a project to reflect and celebrate as a class.
Service Learning Standards
Refer to the National Youth Leadership Council’s [[|K-12 Service Learning Standards for Quality Practice]] when planning Service Learning Projects for guidance in creating evidence based and effective Service Learning projects.


School-Based Service Learning
After visiting the school library, a fourth grade student remarks that it is hard to choose a book because she does not know what many of them are about. The teacher asks students to brainstorm ideas for ways to help students choose library books. After students share their ideas, the class agrees that it would be helpful if the library had more posters featuring scenes of popular books. The teacher uses interactive writing to guide the class in writing a letter to the librarian proposing a Service Learning project where they create posters of books they have read in class to be displayed in the library.
Cross-Content Service Learning
During a grade-level team meeting, sixth grade math, science, and language arts teachers collaborate to design a Service Learning project. The teachers discuss content standards or skills that students are currently working on their classes and develop a project that requires students to test creek samples at a local nature preserve and write a newsletter informing the community about their findings. As students work on the project, each teacher provides content-specific support during their class periods.
Ongoing Service Learning Projects
Students in a middle school class decide that they want to raise money for a nearby animal shelter. They run a school cafe every Friday where students and staff can purchase drinks and snacks. In addition to helping the animal shelter, this activity gives the students an opportunity to practice skills learned in class such as writing, measurement, working with money, and communication. After the cafe closes each week, the teacher asks students to list new things they learned and challenges they experienced in their journals.

Related Strategies