How to use Service-Learning to Enrich the Secondary School Social Studies Classroom
Service-learning is increasingly being used in schools to enrich curriculum and provide students with new ways of thinking and linking what the learn in the classroom with life and issues outside the school. While it is a worthwhile addition to any subject area, social studies is particularly suited for service-learning. Before an educator can begin to implement it in a classroom though, they must understand what service-learning is, why it is so beneficial and how to successfully incorporate it into class content, as well as any obstacles they may face. Service-learning is more than community service, it is the combination of meaningful service with curriculum and learning - it must thoughtfully considered and implemented if it is to be effective. By combining service and learning, students are afforded the chance to learn in new environments and make outside connections to what they learn in school that will deepen their understanding of the subject, and can increase academic performance and the student’s sense of self-worth. To tie service to the class content, the teacher must consider projects and sites for service very carefully. The wide range of disciplines within social studies can all benefit from service-learning, and in fact two standards issued by the National Council for the Social Studies are applicable to service-learning. Having students make regular and frequent connections between their service and what they are learning in class is paramount to helping them deepen their understanding and making the service worthwhile. There are many obstacles a teacher may face in trying to utilize service-learning, despite all of its benefits: student scheduling conflicts, opposition from parents and administration, not to mention the tremendous amount of time it will require of the teacher. By carefully planning around these issues and constructing an intentional and thoughtful service-learning experience for students though, the social studies teacher can greatly enrich the classroom and expand student thinking while also benefitting the community and increasing academic gains.