Service Learning
Students engaged in service learning can answer the question, "When are we ever going to use this in the real world?" When they use their skills and knowledge in real-life situations, learning extends beyond the classroom and into the community.

Service learning is different than community service in several key ways. Service learning includes student leadership, reflective and academic components, and chances for celebration once the service activity has been successfully completed. Students reflect on community needs, ways to help, and once their service has been completed, they can internalize how their efforts have helped, while learning more about academics such as geography, math, or science.

National School of Character principal Jeannie Maier (Salt Brook Elementary School) describes what one of her students did to raise autism awareness at their school.

Take a look at what our bloggers have to say about service learning, including such topics as what graduates should know before they graduate, connecting service learning to character, and Earth-friendly ideas.

Service Learning Resources at the National Forum on Character Education

Learn all you need to know about service learning at our 19th National Forum on Character Education this November. Leaders in the field will discuss:

Animal Tales: The Motivating Power of Narrative

presented by Stephanie Itle-Clark and Lisa Forzley
Grade Level: ES + MS; Experience Level: Novice Character Educators

Stories have been used since ancient times to entertain, awaken the imagination, and impart moral and community virtue. In this fascinating workshop, participants learn how and why stories work their magic and how humane and animal-themed literature can inspire students to “try on” new character traits. This proactive approach to building character will allow attendees to go home with the skills and materials needed to create memorable humane-themed activities that will educate, captivate, and inspire.

Submerging Service Learning into the Curriculum

presented by Tamra Nast and Pauline Roberts
Grade Level: ES + MS + HS; Experience Level: All

Using local and global examples from Birmingham Public Schools in Birmingham, MI, attendees will see one model of integrating Service Learning into the curriculum. The use of technology, practical steps, “take aways”, and discussion with other schools will drive the learning in this session, engaging us all to motivate our students to become leaders of integrity.

In Youth We Trust

presented by Cathy Berger Kaye
Grade Level: All; Experience Level: All

Essential to character development and engagement is the concept of youth voice and choice. Yet, our schools all too often lack the essential ingredient of trust that encourages and allows for many aspects of youth initiative and authentic participation. If we trust our students more, what could possibly happen? Let’s embark on a thoughtful exchange to uncover and discover how trust may make all the difference in a school culture. We will examine the connection between trust and creativity. We will see the enactment of trust in schools around the world. By uncovering the Five Steps to Trust, we can truly transform learning into action. What may we discover? Welcome (and even joyful) consequences.

Get Into It: Building Youth Leadership in Character Education

presented by Jenni Newbury
Grade Level: MS + HS; Experience Level: All

The FREE Get Into It lessons and resources challenge both students and educators to be agents of change in their schools and communities. Learn more about the service-learning-based lessons, online interactive games, Active components (for after-school programs, recess, or P.E.) and our “Movies that Move” DVD. Explore how these elements fit into Special Olympics Project UNIFY – a national effort to empower youth leaders to build schools of acceptance and respect. Free materials will be distributed.

The OCHO Project: Read for a Need (Opportunities for Children to Help Others)

presented by Marilyn Perlyn
Grade Level: ES + MS; Experience Level: All

Chosen by the Broward Education Foundation as a “new teaching idea of excellence,” OCHO can be implemented by an individual class, grade level, or entire school. OCHO has a three-fold focus on character development, literacy, and service-learning. Learn step by step how to implement this heart stretching project in a really big way! Students improve reading skills, create a free book fair, connect eighteen character traits to their own lives, and become leaders who can bring about change.

Fostering Good Character in a Globalized World

presented by Zoe Weil
Grade Level: MS + HS; Experience Level: All

What does it mean to be kind within a globalized economy, in relation to agricultural, energy, production and other systems? The most ostensibly kind teenager may be complicit in exploitation and suffering as well as environmental degradation when she eats in the cafeteria or buys a new electronic device. But how would she know? Fostering good character in a globalized world necessitates an education that extends the best qualities we seek to foster beyond the classroom walls.

The Engaged Service Learning Classroom

Yes, service learning is an engaging teaching strategy; however what teaching
strategies make service learning even more highly engaging? During this
interactive session, discover ways to integrate service learning dynamics into
your everyday classroom. Motivate students towards original thinking. Strengthen
students’ ability to investigate key issues of concern in their communities and
design authentic sustainable solutions. Enliven reflection. Useful at all grade
levels and with all students, these strategies improve the service learning
process (and any classroom) and reinvigorate us as educators. Come prepared for
action! A lively time, with practical useful outcomes. Handouts included.

Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is an international service learning consultant and a former classroom teacher. She works with state departments of education, university faculty and students, school districts, and classroom teachers on a variety of education issues such as service learning, civic responsibility, student leadership, and respectful school communities.

Out the Spout & Down the Drain: A Water Planet Challenge Workshop

Date and Time: Nov. 1, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Workshop Fee: $25.

Open to students and teachers, this dynamic three-hour workshop will explore what comes OUT THE SPOUT, goes DOWN THE DRAIN, and how youth citizen journalism strategies can greatly enhance the service-learning experience and academic outcomes. Targeted audience is middle school and high school, but upper elementary are welcome, too.
Does the water we choose to drink matter? Learn why drinking water from our local resources, even when on the go, protects water resources in parts of the world where they are threatened, and protects ourselves from potentially harmful chemicals. Worried there might be more coming out of your spout than water? Learn why bottled water is not the answer and get ready to help your students discover why we need to make every drop count. Standards-based curricular materials provided. Resources you can use. Transform ideas into action!

Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is an international service learning consultant and a former classroom teacher. She works with state departments of education, university faculty and students, school districts, and classroom teachers on a variety of education issues such as service learning, civic responsibility, student leadership, and respectful school communities. Cathryn is the author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning.

Kyra Kristof is Director of Learning for EarthEcho International, a leading environmental nonprofit committed to youth engagement, action and leadership through education. She has been developing and conducting workshops for educators on a variety of experiential learning strategies that support sustainability since 1998. Kyra also develops ideas to bring together agriculture, social entrepreneurship, and the economy. She is the Co-Founder of Pollin8r.

Education in Action: Great Ideas from Great Schools

Get your students involved in service learning. Browse more than 150 Promising Practices and lesson plans for service learning opportunities, arranged by topic, submitted by educators at schools like yours.

Military, America, Heroes

Adopt-a-Marine – Chesterfield Elementary School
Celebrating America: A Tribute to Our Heroes – Meramec Heights Elementary School
Celebrating our Constitution and Our Heroes, Past and Present – Alma Schrader Elementary School
Celebrating Veterans Day Throughout the Year – Oak Brook Elementary School
Fire House Service Learning – Valley Park Middle School
Freedom Pillow Talk – Sullivan Middle School
Gift Bags for Veterans- Beasley Elementary School
Honoring American Heroes- Jefferson City Public Schools
Honoring our Veterans through Service Learning – Chesterfield Elementary School
Military Care Package Project- Jefferson East Elementary School
Pillows for Soliders – Mehlville High School
Supporting Our Active Duty Troops – Murphy Elementary School
Veterans Parade – Beasley Elementary School

Hospital and Health
International and Multicultural

5th Graders Create Books for Peru Orphans – Carmel Elementary School
A Middle School’s Empty Bowls Are Filled with Hope – Oakville Middle School
Afghanistan Project – Point Elementary School
African United Interdisciplinary Project – Mill Pond School
Breaking Boundaries – Walls Elementary School
Community Partners’ Service that Saves – Lindbergh High School
Hearts for Haiti – Oak Brook Elementary School
International Service Learning Project – Wilton Manors Elementary School (link coming soon)
Native American Friendship Bowls – Muhlenberg Elementary Center
“Oh, the Places We’ll Go!” through Service Learning – Truman Elementary School
Pennies for Peace – Bayless Intermediate School
Service Learning without Borders – Imagine South Lake
World Wednesdays – Imagine South Lake
Shoes Supply Safe Water – Beasley Elementary School
Researching Countries Helped by the Shoeman Project
Fundraiser for Japan

People in Need

Animals and Nature

Elderly and Babies


Acts of Kindness and Recognizing Service Learning

Leadership and Kids Helping Kids

Service learning leads to academic integrity, according to David Wangaard, the director of the School for Ethical Education.

DENS – Warren Elementary School
EarlyAct Club – Lalor Elementary School
Junior Police Program – Imagine Schools at Desert West
S.A.I.L. Service Activities Involvement and Leadership – Secaucus School District
Academic Mentoring for At-Risk Students – Lindbergh High School
Elm Acres Service Learning Project – Pittsburg High School
KITTENS (Kindergarteners Inventing Teaching Tools Encouraging Numerous Students) – Endeavour Elementary Magnet School of Technology
Luke’s Buddies: Character in Action – Liberty Corner Elementary School
Partnership for Kids – Morgan Selvidge Middle School
Pathways to Inclusion - Cranford High School
The Peter Pan Project – Fox High School
YAP Service Learning Project – Fox High School

General Service Learning

100% Giving Day of Character - Blades Elementary School
Advocacy Groups – The Vanguard School
Angels’ Arms – Wild Horse Elementary School
Buddy Bag Program — Reaching Everyone – Lincoln County R-III School District
Building Community through Student Service Learning – Thomas Stone High School
Camp Kokua, Learning by Serving – Ho’ala
Caring and Reaching - Orrs Elementary School
Change the World through Your Heart through Service Learning – Westridge Elementary School
Class Character Competition – “The Golden Stone” - Thomas Stone High School
Every Child Lends a Helping Hand – Floresville Primary School
Gators Earn, Learn, and Give Back – Green Pines Elementary School
The Giving Day - Pleasant Valley Elementary School
Heart to Heart Project- Rogers Elementary School
Humanitarian Club – Lehighton Area Middle School
Kennerly Students Raise a Village – Kennerly Elementary School
Million Minor March - Maplewood Richmond Heights High School
Navigators Club – Sperreng Middle School
Peace, Awareness, Witness, Service Pledge – St. Aloysius Academy
Positive Action Center (PAC) - paxUnited
Project E.N.G.A.G.E. – Mehlville School District
Project-Based Learning within an Advisory System – Avalon School
Roughers Alliance for Intelligent Decisions (R.A.I.D.) – Muskogee High School
School Ambassadors Serving the School and Community – North Boulevard Elementary School
Season of Service, Period of Peace – San Leandro High School
Service Learnng Mania – duPont Manual High School
S.U.P.E.R. Club (Students Understanding Philanthropy and Educating Relationships) - Sadler Arts Academy
The C.I.A. (Citizens in Action) - Portage Central Middle School
Helping Hands Program – Uthoff Valley Elementary School
Fifth Grade Service Learning Project
Civic Responsibility: Meeting a Community Need


David Wangaard, director of the School of Ethical Education, presents many of our service learning webinars.

Upcoming Webinar >>Register Now

Aug 30, 2012 Student Goal Setting for Academic and Character Growth: A Service Learning Project Idea
Teachers (grades 4-12) are invited to participate in a webinar to use service learning as a strategy for older students to help younger students write personal goal statements for the coming school year. Starting the year with personal goal statements is an excellent activity for any student. This webinar extends the idea to have older students lead younger students to reflect on and write academic and character goals statements and raise their expectations for success. Planning and evaluation forms and links to outside resources will be provided to participants.

Archived Webinars >>Register to Watch

Recognizing Opportunities for Moral Action

Students and adult participants are welcomed to join this webinar to recognize a variety of opportunities for moral action that can be pursued in schools. Examples will be discussed for application in K-12 settings along with standards to optimize moral action activities. Moral action will be defined to include all three domains (thinking, feeling and doing) of CEP’s Principle Two.

Planning and Implementing Moral Action in Schools

This webinar will integrate lessons from research to advance student moral functioning along with the research from effective service-learning. Planning and evaluation forms will be made available along with relevant follow-up contacts and resources. Students and adult participants are welcomed to join this webinar to recognize a variety of opportunities for moral action that can be pursued in schools. Examples will be discussed for application in K-12 settings along with standards to optimize moral action activities. Moral action will be defined to include all three domains (thinking, feeling and doing) of CEP’s Principle Two.

More Service Learning Resources

There are many resources available for community service projects, but the organizations and resources in the link below dedicate themselves to fostering service in a more sustainable approach. They offer service-learning ideas and other resources to help your students engage with their surrounding community and become life-long advocates for giving back.