Service Learning is an important and dynamic component of the academic program at Kaleidoscope Charter School. One of the core beliefs of our school is that the interactions between the community and our schools are mutually beneficial. All students at Kaleidoscope are required to complete 20 hours of Service Learning each year as we believe that this helps them to connect the content taught within their classrooms to the real world outside of our school’s walls.
When thinking about the role of Service Learning in our programming, it is important to differentiate it from community service. When completing community service, students are putting the act of serving first and the specific activity that they are involved in is not relevant. Service learning is like community service taken to the next level in that it seeks a specific desired academic outcome in a way that also provides a service.
For example, our middle school students participate in the Hennepin County River Watch project as a part of their science class. They take various measurements to report on the health of the local body of water. The first priority of the activity is to help them understand the concepts that they have learned in the classroom, and doing so in a way that provides a service and connects them to the community is a secondary benefit. Service Learning is not simply about spending a predetermined amount of time doing projects for the community. Instead, it places an importance on what the students learn from the projects that they complete.