Service learning embraces a high level of flexibility and adapts to changes. Service projects reflect the conditions of our lives, our communities, and our world. Today’s challenges may not be those of tomorrow, and that which needs research today may need maintenance tomorrow.
Our children encounter real-world change with service learning. Solutions may come from unexpected sources that require revamping original plans. Our children learn cooperatively, facing and managing challenge, failure, success, and growth together. The entire process teaches them much about life, problem solving, and how to travel rough or unknown paths. The learning that takes place in this safe, inclusive environment is transferable knowledge that supports success in more-traditional, individually assessed academic settings.
The structural underpinnings of this curriculum include the four-part design of service learning, signature grade-level service learning projects, and a national checklist of projects organized by topics as a resource for locally defined community checklists. Evaluation comes from statistical data generated by community-based organizations that offers tangible evidence of our efforts.
Curriculum for other core subjects (math, history, science, language arts) is determined by each state, reflecting the high value we place on freedom and autonomy. The service learning curriculum, by contrast, is nationally coordinated, reflecting the voice of the people to self-govern from a different perspective. A flexible service learning curriculum provides another avenue of expression for our core American value of freedom of voice and freedom to self-determine our path and how to get there.
A service learning curriculum invites the participation of all who discover better ways of meeting local, national, and global needs, “the people”—our youth, our teachers, and our community members—who bring problems to light and solutions to a collective table. Such a combined effort gathers our youth together with us on a journey worth pursuing, a journey that inspires us to continue.