What is Service Learning?
Service learning is an essential 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 school are mutually beneficial.
When considering the role of Service Learning in our programming, it is important to differentiate it from community service. When completing community service, students put the act of serving first, and the specific activity they are involved in is irrelevant. Service learning is like community service taken to the next level in that it seeks a specific desired academic outcome in a way that provides a service.
Service Learning is about more than just spending a predetermined amount of time doing projects for the community. Instead, it emphasizes what the students learn from the projects they complete.
What Does it Look Like in Action?
Our eighth-grade students assist in the Hennepin County River Watch Project as a part of their science class. They take various measurements to report on the local water body's health. The first priority of the activity is to help them understand the concepts they have learned in the classroom. The second priority is doing so in a way that provides a service and connects them to the community.
Our high school drawing class students participate in the Memory Project, which connects youth worldwide through art. Students begin by learning all about the United States - the size and languages spoken, for example. They then study another country, broadening their perspectives. The culmination of their studies is drawing portraits of children in other countries, such as Syria and Nigeria. These portraits are then sent to other students across the globe, building "cultural understanding and international kindness."
Often these service-learning projects expand across grade levels. This year after their unit on community helpers, a pediatric nurse visited our students in K-2, telling them about the nursing profession. They then learned from the founder of Alexa's Altruistic Stuffed Animals, whose mission is to give a stuffed animal to every child that stays overnight at the Mayo Clinic. The second graders presented this information to the students in grades 3-5, and we then held a K-5 stuffed animal drive.