Service-learning expands our classrooms beyond school walls and gives students a voice in their education. It offers an exciting way for students to learn while being involved in their community. Service-learning is a proven teaching and learning strategy that inspires young people to learn about and serve their communities through experiences directly tied to their school curriculum and state academic standards. Service-learning is a key in helping students understand how what they’re learning today will prepare them for their adult lives.
At Tracy Unified, we believe learning through service enhances the curriculum, improves our community and empowers students to be responsible citizens and the leaders of tomorrow.
Service-learning is integrated into curriculum
Service-learning is not an “add-on” to classroom curriculum. It’s integrated into the core curriculum and is tied to the California State Academic Standards for content and performance. These standards establish what children should know and be able to do within a subject area while performance standards measure how well students can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned. Service-learning enables students to demonstrate their mastery of these important content standards.
A simple community service activity like a canned food drive for the needy can become a great example of how service-learning projects can be integrated into classroom curriculum. For example, using the cans collected, students can study weights and measures in mathematics or they can graph the number of cans in each weight category and display their findings on a wall chart. As part of the health curriculum, students can analyze the nutritional value of the food collected and try to plan balanced meals using those items.
Throughout Tracy Unified, a variety of service-learning projects are helping to deepen the level of learning and civic responsibility in our students. Our students’ projects range from composting lunch leftovers and using the compost in a natural wildlife habitat on campus, to coat drives to running athletic tournaments for underprivileged youth in our community.
Program goals benefit learners, community
Through service-learning, students:
Understand the relevance of what they’re learning in school and apply the knowledge and skills to the world outside school
Remember and use the content information and skills that they learned in class
Have an improved understanding of their role as citizens in a democratic society
Understand that every community has needs that are often unmet and learn how to identify those needs
Understand that working with other people as a team is often an effective way of addressing issues and solving community problems.
Competitive state grant supports district initiative
In 2003 the California Department of Education (CDE) awarded Tracy Unified a grant for service-learning. CDE rated Tracy Unified’s grant application among the best in the state. The three-year grant for $66,000 will fund a part-time service-learning coordinator, training for teachers and community partners, and service-learning activities. This grant will help Tracy Unified reach its goal of providing every student one or more service-learning experiences per grade span.
Community organizations are partners in service-learning
Tracy Unified works cooperatively with a community advisory committee for service-learning to plan and implement its program. In addition, many community organizations are partners in this initiative including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy, Brighter Christmas, Tracy Interfaith Ministries, and McHenry House for the Homeless.
Sources: Tracy Unified School District, California Department of Education Service-Learning Task Force Report.