Partnerships & Service

February 06, 2002 2 min read

Learning In Deed

Service learning should be used more often and is an effective teaching strategy that can enhance student’s academic and civic experience, according to a report issued last week by the National Commission on Service Learning.

“Learning in Deed: The Power of Service Learning for American Schools,” is available from the National Commission on Service Learning. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Released Jan. 28, “Learning in Deed: The Power of Service Learning for American Schools,” says that students will be more engaged in the classroom and in their communities if they take part in more hands-on activities that connect academics with real-world issues.

“Service learning is an important tool to upgrade the education system,” John Glenn, the chairman of the commission and a former U.S. senator, said in an interview. “It gives kids who are disengaged with school an understanding of why school is important. It’s academics in action, and it takes the classroom out into the community.”

In 2000, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a Battle Creek, Mich.-based philanthropy that has promoted service learning, appointed the National Commission on Service Learning to study how the concept is used in the nation’s schools.

The commission, co-sponsored by the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at Ohio State University, consists of education, government, and community leaders who spent a year reviewing research data and visiting schools to better understand the practice of service learning.

The report includes examples of service-learning projects, such as students who have taken part in an initiative at Miami High School in Miami, Okla., near one of the nation’s worst toxic-waste clean-up sites.

When groups of students and community members there learned that children in the community had high levels of lead in their blood, they formed a volunteer society to increase community awareness of the problem. Biology students began monitoring water, wrote research projects about toxic waste, and looked at how to communicate their message in journalism classes.

The report notes that several studies have revealed that many students are not engaged enough in learning and say they find classes boring and irrelevant.

It recommends that the definition of student achievement be expanded to include community contributions; that policy and financial support for service learning be increased; that a comprehensive system of professional development for service learning be developed; and that meaningful leadership roles be created for youth in all aspects of service learning.

—John Gehring

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2002 edition of Education Week