Service-Learning Projects:
Connecting the Curriculum to Life and to Love

New Jersey students are showing that they truly are Kids Who Care by embracing service-learning in record numbers.  During the 2007—08 school year in the PACES (Partnership for Advancing Character Education through Service-Learning) Project alone, which involved 18 schools, close to 7,000 students actively participated in structured service-learning projects. The recipients of their service were as diverse as the schools themselves: little toddlers and senior citizens; hometowns and towns in Africa; the homeless in nearby places and the military in far-off lands, school issues such as bullying, and global issues, such as the spread of malaria.

Despite the diversity, a commonality can be found in the methodology used in all PACES projects: investigating an issue of concern; preparing for action; implementing that action; reflecting on the effect on both the giver and recipient; demonstrating to wider audience; and celebrating upon completion. These six elements transform service, which is connected to the curriculum, into “learning” and distinguish service-learning from community service, which is often done after school with little correlation to class work.

In looking back on his years working as a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side, President Barack Obama called the experience “the best education” he ever had.  Let us hope that by replicating some of the service-learning initiatives described here, you can help your students achieve “the best education” they will ever have by connecting the curriculum to life and to love of fellow man.

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