Service-Learning

Young boy pulling Dyer's Woad in service learning project.

Service-Learning is a powerful tool used to strengthen communities by combining public service with education and reflection.  Each year, the Forest Service is involved in many service-learning projects throughout the agency. The following information can help you learn more about service-learning, and find opportunities to become involved in projects in your backyard.  

What is Service Learning?

In the past several years, service-learning has spread rapidly throughout communities, K-12 institutions, and colleges and universities. Even though there are many different interpretations of service-learning as well as different objectives and contexts, we can say that there is a core concept upon which all seem to agree:

"Service-learning combines service objectives with learning objectives with the intent that the activity change both the recipient and the provider of the service. This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content."

According to the National Commission on Service Learning, service-learning:

  • Links to academic content and standards
  • Involves young people in helping to determine and meet real, defined community needs
  • Is reciprocal in nature, benefiting both the community and the service providers by combining a service experience with a learning experience
  • Can be used in any subject area so long as it is appropriate to learning goal
  • Works at all ages, even among young children

Service-learning is not:

  • An episodic volunteer program
  • An add-on to an existing school or college curriculum
  • Logging a set number of community service hours in order to graduate
  • Compensatory service assigned as a form of punishment by the courts or by school administrators
  • Only for high school or college students
  • One-sided: benefiting only students or only the community