Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Service-Learning: An Innovative Approach to Science After School

Out-of-school time presents an excellent opportunity for students to learn more about how science, technology, engineering, and math are intertwined with the world around them. But even in an afterschool environment, science education program developers and teaching staff may struggle with helping students connect what they are learning to their everyday lives. In order to create meaningful learning, students should be able to emotionally invest themselves in their work, creating a personal connection that extends beyond academic value and achievement.

Service-learning is a hands-on method of learning that helps students connect to their projects in a meaningful way. In service-learning projects, students use their skills and subject matter to complete a project that benefits the community. Similar to citizen science--where individuals or groups of students participate in various components of the science process to contribute to a larger data-set--students participating in STEM service-learning projects do "real" science that benefits the world around them. In service-learning, students' projects often have a real effect on their own neighborhoods and communities, helping them to see the connection between science and their everyday lives.

Service-learning is a natural environment for STEM-related projects. In one form of service-learning, students use their scientific knowledge to craft a community program--as these students did at L'Anse Creuse Public Schools in Michigan, where they facilitated a recycling event to improve their local environment. Students in high school or college with advanced scientific knowledge can also form community partnerships to mentor students in STEM subjects, as in the Engineers as Teachers program designed by Iridescent (who are also members of the Coalition for Science After School).

If you're interested in starting a service-learning project in your community--or you would like to integrate it as a component into your existing program--check out the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. This database is a great starting point for research on service-learning outcomes, case studies of successful programs, and lots of other resources for getting started in service-learning. 

If you're looking for a way to share your service-learning program, consider listing it in the National After School Science Directory


Anonymous said...

Right on! I am so glad to see the service-learning and the science after school worlds coming together. At KIDS Consortium we have been doing a lot lately to support STEM service-learning. Next month we, in partnership with the Maine Math and Science Alliance, are holding part one of a two part STEM and service-learning workshop for after school program leaders in Massachusetts.

Anonymous said...

Great article about service-learning and science. Also great links to resources. Thank you for spreading the word about service-learning.

I agree that out-of-school time is an excellent opportunity to practice service-learning with students, but I would encourage teachers to use their classroom time as well. You may be surprised by how much a student can learn and grow and truly be engaged in the classroom by a quality service-learning program.

after school program said...

Afterschool programs really to learn those things that you could not learn while in the routine work. Sometimes you need very relax atmosphere to learn although in routine working days, there is a great confusion in between the students and the teachers.