Service Learning is an educational approach where a student learns theories in the classroom and at the same time volunteers with an agency (usually a non-profit or social service group) and engages in reflection activities to deepen their understanding of what is being taught.
It is a cycle of theories, practices, and reflection tools to broaden knowledge and critical thinking skills for social change.
You might commonly hear it related to terms such as civic engagement, community development, advocacy, philanthropy, social change, volunteerism, community service, and experiential learning.
As a result of service learning, students learn more about the community and themselves while fulfilling a need in the community and meeting classroom requirements.
What Are Some Examples of Service Learning in the LORDS Senior School?
Street Retreat Immersion Brings Perspective to Year 9 Students
What does homelessness look like? Who can become homeless? How do people find themselves sleeping rough? How true are the stereotypes surrounding homelessness?
These are some of the questions Year 9 explored during their ‘street retreat’ immersion. We have had the pleasure and privilege of hosting presenters from organisations such as Vinnies, Orange Sky Laundry, Homeless Youth, Rosies, The Salvation Army, Footprints, Carinity, and Q Shelter. During these presentations, students were able to unpack some of the myths surrounding homelessness, open their minds to the experiences of others and learn about the growing problem of homelessness in Australia. They explored how the Covid19 pandemic and current rental shortage crisis have contributed to a significant change in the number and type of people experiencing homelessness. One of the authentic learning activities involved shopping at Coles and having the challenge of spending no more than $2 on a meal. Many students found this challenging and eye-opening, providing real-world experience of the food insecurity they studied during Geography last term. Another activity required students to select only a limited number of possessions for a person experiencing homelessness to take with them. This activity generated much critical debate and discussion about the value of ‘things’ and needs vs wants.
With their new understanding of homelessness, students will now work towards pitching an advertisement that aims to break down some of the myths around people experiencing homelessness. We have been greatly impressed with the empathy and openness our students have shown, as well as their ability to reflect on their learning.
Service Learning is important because it connects student learning in the classroom with real-world experiences in the community. Students who participate in it are more deeply engaged in their local communities, gain practical skills, develop their career and personal interests, and are usually more engaged humans.
At a societal level, it is important for people to be involved and aware of their communities so they can assist each other and be more conscientious individuals. Creating opportunities for young people increases their involvement.
Finally, it instills the habit of performing a service for others. Students who engage early on often continue service work for the rest of their lives.