Kellogg Begins Program To Boost Service Learning

By Julie Blair — May 26, 1999 2 min read
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The W.K. Kellogg Foundation will spend $13 million over the next four years in an effort to broaden the use of service-learning curricula in schools.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based foundation unveiled the “Learning in Deed” project in Columbia, S.C. this month. It gave more than $400,000 to state officials there to identify successful service-learning curricula and replicate them, said Chris Kwak, a program director for philanthropy and volunteerism at the Kellogg Foundation.

Similar awards will soon be made to California, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon. The states were chosen because of their interest in service-learning opportunities, Ms. Kwak said.

The remaining $11 million will be used to build a network of researchers who will study the academic and social effects of service learning on students; to form a national commission that will examine and promote service learning; and to bring together experienced service-learning leaders to share ideas.

“We are concerned about the lack of connectedness [students have] to their communities,” Ms. Kwak said. “Service learning is one way in which connectedness and civic participation can be seeded at an early age.”

Growing Trend

Ms. Kwak described service learning as a curriculum that combines academics with projects that aid others.

One school in Mount Vernon, Wash., for example, teaches students science by having them monitor a local stream and maintain a bird sanctuary.

Research conducted by Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., involving 1,000 middle and high school students in the 1995-96 school year, showed that participation in service-learning projects improved students’ civic attitudes, enjoyment of school, and academic performance, said Alan Melchior, the deputy director of the Center for Human Resources at Brandeis and the project evaluator for Learning in Deed.

Nationwide, the percentage of high school students who participated in service-learning programs jumped from 2 percent in 1984 to nearly 25 percent in 1997, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota. That year, some 13 million students took part in such programs.

“At a time when so many people in our country have so little faith in civic institutions ... we need to actively help our young people see the importance of getting involved in their communities,” Frank Newman, the president of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, said in a statement. The ecs is implementing the five state-level grants.

The Kellogg Foundation has long been a supporter of service-learning and other youth service opportunities. It has given more than $23 million, not including the latest grant, over the past 11 years for such programs, Ms. Kwak said.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 26, 1999 edition of Education Week as Kellogg Begins Program To Boost Service Learning


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