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Today’s Students and Some Reflections on Service Learning

My colleague pointed out the video below to our English department in advance of our annual retreat (devoted to discussing our dept’s recent accreditation review and our future goals). Then today another colleague, “Gandalf” from the Peru Project, in fact, just forwarded it to me as well. So I figured it was time to share it with y’all. After you watch, I have posted some thoughts below about the message of this video and the goals and benefits of service-learning (the kind of teaching and learning that went on in our trip to Peru).

One of the things that struck me so powerfully about this video is how the students seem to be begging for relevance in their education, and I think service-learning fills this need in meaningful ways for most students.

What is service-learning?

Basically, s-l occurs when the skills/knowledge that students learn in class are put to use to serve the greater good of the community (however that is defined). In our case, engineering students design engineering projects (solar powered drip irrigation systems for an arid and cold climate, cheap biodigestors to produce methane cooking gas from animal and plant waste, etc.) and then they actually SERVE the Peruvian communities with which we partner by installing these actual systems. Learn through serving. Serve through learning.

Anyway, it seems to me that part of what this video above is telling us is that students need to feel their schoolwork matters, that what they are supposed to learn is important. (Can we blame them for that?) Service-learning has a way of helping students achieve just that feeling of satisfaction (whether they are installing water systems in Peru or writing grants for a local non-profit as a student intern). I have utilized s-l in my English class for over a decade and feel convinced that s-l (though taxing for teachers who must put in a lot of extra work to make sure the s-l experience goes well) is still one of the best ways for students to achieve deep understanding.

One Response

  1. Thanks for an informative and inspirational post…Not just our young, but don’t we all, often struggle to seek relevance and meaning in our affluent and materialistic North American society.

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