Supporting Students as Social Beings with Experience in Life
by JOE BROOKS
Service-Learning and Social Education go hand in hand. Likewise, service-learning creates opportunities for real-world learning, with very real consequences and real rewards. It creates a playing field for work that matters. Service-learning depends on context, our context as learners and teachers, and our place around us as subject.
We join veteran educators across the U.S., and around the world, in the belief that service-learning promotes connected, purposeful and positive school experiences for students. These experiences contribute directly to the development of young people as caring, informed, and active citizens who have a strong sense of self-efficacy. Service-learning is above all about “experience” It is about preparing students for a full, caring, and productive life — nurturing the experiences in life that promote understanding, empathy, and compassion so much needed in today’s world.
“The lesson for progressive education is that it requires in an urgent degree, a degree more pressing than was incumbent upon former innovators, a philosophy of education based upon a philosophy of experience.”
— John Dewey
The Power of Service-Learning
Service-learning possesses a transformative power for students, schools and communities. Through thoughtful engagement in service-learning, we as educators create the opportunity to practice the kind of behavior we want to encourage in our students by emphasizing the importance of caring for others and responding to community needs. By participating in an endeavor that benefits others, students enlarge their view of the world and of themselves while learning new skills, practicing personal and social skills, and applying content knowledge in an experiential context.
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
— Paulo Freire
How We Approach Service-Learning
We see service-learning as a crucial part of a larger effort to connect and engage students. Our approach is to first consider place as the context, service-learning as the strategy, and sustainable communities as the goal. To achieve this we begin our work with educators by considering what sustainable communities look like, and how to connect students to a sense of place — their place — in ways that will inform their choices of service and social action. Student voice and creating real reciprocity (genuine two-way street relationships) are absolutely inherent to high-quality service-learning.
We understand student voice as a “continuum,” an ongoing process, where while it is essential that students do participate on some level in making informed choices, teachers also face limits of time, comfort, and experience. Our goal in our work with educators and schools is to set a process in motion that is grounded in a shared belief that student voice hugely deepens student engagement in learning, and in the world around them. This process takes time and practice that are well worth the effort.
School, in the modern sense, often separates the “curriculum” from the personal, and from experience. We know what this looks and feels like. Join us in digging deeper with our teaching, to put the pieces back together, to reach the personal through experience.