Service learning has a lot of excellent benefits for high school students. Notice I said service learning and not simply community service. I’m not talking about picking up trash by the side of the road or serving up food at a soup kitchen – although these things could definitely be components of a service learning program.
Service learning is community service or volunteer work that is incorporated into an educational and curricular context. This means that the work students do in their communities is connected with what they are learning in school, and therefore furthers the classroom experience. For example, a science class studying recycling might begin a recycling campaign in the community. An English class reading a book about hunger and famine might collect money or start a food drive to help those with less food.
In this way, the service benefits not only the community but the students. It gives students hands on experience, which makes the learning process more authentic. It helps students to see a reason for what they are learning. What’s more, it helps students to develop contacts in the community and in businesses, people who can later help them to get jobs.
Doing volunteer work helps give high school students a chance to give back, and helps connect schools more to the communities in which they are located. More importantly, though, doing real work in the real world helps students to become more socially aware adults while deepening and improving their learning.
Now, why shouldn’t that be required?