Service Learning is when students take what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. My students partner with local community agencies to work on these projects. They learn, that while textbook lessons are important, real-life experiences have 360° dimensions.
In a Service learning class, students are asked to reflect on not only the process and projects they are doing, but the meaning that the experience holds for them and the community or groups they are serving or working with.
This year, some of my students will be partnering with people in the international community. They’ll probably look a lot like the students pictured above. They’ll be digging gardens, working with children, picking up trash – perhaps, and getting to know a new community.
Right now they’re excited.
I think that alone is pretty amazing; pretty humbling. They’ve worked hard to plan, and now we’re almost ready to take off. They’re ready to take off to work hard, and they’re excited.
As I think about why they’re excited, the phrases, finding meaning, finding significance, and finding purpose come to mind. We all need to find where we fit in and where we are most effective. This experience, structures a portion of that learning opportunity for my students.
Right now the students know about what they’ve planned, and studied. Yet they also know that real-life problems and solutions are not as neat and orderly as the ones in the textbook.
In real life you have to be flexible. You must deal with real pain, frustration, and challenge, that in the textbook is only a side-note. In real life, you deal with real people and personalities, and regulations and politics. When things go well in real life, you know that you’ve accomplished something that is important. I’d theorize that, real results, provide real meaning and that is what my students are after.
They’re in college, but my students already have enough wisdom to know that real results beat textbook theories any day. Real results are attached to smiling children, and grateful parents, and deeper understanding, and so much more.
At this point, my students know they’ll still have professors, (yours truly and co.) to guide them through the maze of real-life challenges and contingencies. As we do, I hope they’ll gain strength and perspective, and see examples of others who are committed to doing things that matter. I hope that long after this experience, and despite challenges, they’ll continue in their commitment to doing things that matter in the real world.
So more to come.
From the world – of real life.