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The Winchendon School received local recognition for our innovative service learning curriculum from The Gardner News.  In the article, teacher James Harrington summed up the School’s philosophy on service learning with a great quote,

“We want to create mindful habits instead of having something to check off before graduation. That includes habits of giving back.”James Harrington

The Winchendon School begins the school year with a day of service in our greater community.

At The Winchendon School, service learning isn’t just a fancier name for the community service hours many high schools require seniors to complete before they can graduate. Articulated service learning programs go beyond completing community service requirements for graduation. It’s the difference between learning to fix the root cause of issues rather than volunteering for a cause. While volunteerism is a vital role and volunteers may be needed for a service learning project – volunteerism doesn’t change root causes. Looking to discover what makes a great service learning program? Here are seven things to look for in a great service learning program in high school.

Service Learning Programs Are Academic Based

Look for a program that integrates academic credit with their service learning curriculum. Programs should have intentional learning goals.

Students take local transportation to their service learning project.

Service Learning Projects Should Be Based In Students’ Own Community

The best service learning programs look for ways students can improve life in their own community. Service Learning focuses on effective citizenship with the goal of students better understanding social issues relevant to their own community.

Students run a thrift store to address local needs.

Service Learning Programs Are Research Based

Before you can solve a problem, you need to know why it came to exist. In the best service learning programs students research and understand the roots of the issue in their own communities before agreeing to act by developing a program.

Students Lead the Service Learning Project

While teachers can act as mentors and coaches to the students, in service learning projects, students learn leadership skills by taking on the leadership roles in the project.

The Theater for Change project teaches area youngsters confidence and new skills through theater programs.

Service Learning Projects Build Partnerships

Student leaders conduct research and reach out to local leaders to find community partners.

The Winchendon School works with Growing Places as a community partner to provide fresh food and gardening skills to area residents.

Service Learning Honors Achievement Not Hours Spent

In service learning, emphasis is not placed on short-term community service hours but rather on the larger achievement of the program.

Service Learning Participants Reflect on Their Experiences

Participants generate and act upon ideas and build relationships, but in service learning an important component is reflection. Participants learn to reflect on their actions, think back on how decisions were made, and tasks performed. Participants learn from the process and reflect on improvements such as what does the group need to move the project further, should they have chosen a different method, and how could they be more successful.