What is Service-Learning?

Making paper from invasive plantsThe Education Commission of the States, in their report,Learning That Lasts: How Service-Learning Can Become an Integral Part of Schools, States and Communities, defines service-learning as “a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.”

Successful service-learning programs are built around a core of standards as outlined by the National Youth Leadership Council and the National Service-Learning Cooperative.


Meaningful Service - Students engage in service-learning programs that are relevant and valuable to both participants and those being served.

Link to Curriculum - Service-learning is an integral part of the learning process, with direct ties to academic studies and content standards.

Reflection - Service-learning activities should provide opportunities for students to process their learning, and evaluate the effectiveness and success of the program.

Diversity - Through service-learning programs, students encounter, and gain appreciation for a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.

Youth Voice - Students are active partners in service-learning programs, with a voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service activities.

Partnerships - Service-learning builds partnerships between young people and the broader community that can last beyond the initial service experience.

Progress Monitoring - The progress and achievements of service-learning programs are shared with policymakers, education leaders, and others, to help sustain program support and high quality standards.

Duration and Intensity - Service-learning works best when it is conducted across sufficient periods of time, so as to fulfill project goals and the needs of those being served.