Embracing the need to do: A fusion of literature, conversation, and curriculum that showcases the reasoning and best path to implementing service learning in elementary schools
This paper presents a discussion of service learning, its benefits and struggles, its place amongst students in urban schools, and how to transition the common practice of service learning in high school to elementary schools. The paper takes a critical eye at peer reviewed journal articles, developed curriculums, and an interview with an individual embedded in service learning projects. As there is a huge gap of research for elementary school service learning, adaptions were made with necessity and appropriateness. The term service learning relates to the notions of a teaching tool to support and foster stronger learning, civic development, and community. The discussion begins with the benefits and struggles of service learning as showcased from the student, faculty, and community levels. This allows for comparison amongst those involved but also to see what those involved experience on different levels. Some key points made were that students can grow collaboratively, teachers face pressure but push through for the students’ benefits, and that the community can thrive with the support of the youth. From there, the discussion stems into students in urban schools and why service learning is so beneficial to them. These notions include bridging gaps, fostering social development, and providing a more culturally responsive approach to learning. These notions are of course true for all students but especially for students of urban schools who face schooling that is often times not equitable. The fusion then shifts into how to enact service learning in elementary schools with the most effective components. To do this, the paper examines Dewey’s four tenets of service learning, which promote meaningful, thought out service learning experiences that allow for student voice to be heard. Within these four tenets, the ideas of promoting youth voice and empowerment, skill development, and development of citizenship traits were also highlighted.