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What is Service Learning?
At its essence, service learning combines community service projects with academic and social learning. Students identify a real community need and learn while effecting change in their community. Service learning allows students to become more engaged in their project which makes it more likely they will stay committed to the cause. This engagement also carries over to their learning, allowing students to actively participate in the learning process.
How Service Learning Can Help Animals
Traditionally, students have participated in community service projects without really knowing much about the agency or cause they are working to help. A class may want to help animals, for example, so they raise money for the local animal shelter — yet the project ends when the money is raised and the teacher sends the check to the shelter. Most students have never visited the shelter, do not know what needs the shelter serves within the community, and what costs are associated with this work. Students involved in service learning, however, would meet with and speak to shelter staff, research the shelter's needs, learn and practice a variety of skills while engaged in the project, and likely remain concerned about and involved with this community institution long after the project is over. Students can take pride in knowing how their efforts directly helped the animals and possibly even get to visit with some of the animals themselves.
Service learning benefits not only students, but teachers, and community recipients as well. Teachers will have more engaged and enthusiastic students with whom to work, and community institutions reap the benefits of their new perspectives and hard work. It's a win-win situation for all.
Read the ASPCA Animalessons newsletter "What is Service Learning?".