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The Benefits of Service Learning

20 June 2024 | Posted in Catholic Identity; Learning and Teaching

The Benefits of Service Learning

By Anita Livingston

What is Service Learning?

Service learning describes pathways for learning that are grounded in students’ experiences of service action, but include purposeful reflection to discern the inner transformation that results from encounters with others. These two intentional components of service accompanied by self-reflection provide opportunities for personal growth, community participation and active citizenship. In Catholic schools, both the service and the self-reflection are informed by Catholic Christian ways of understanding our human experience and the way that God is revealed to us in many and various ways throughout our lives.

Why is Service Learning a Valued Pathway in Catholic Schools?

Service learning provides an authentic experience for students to enact the skills, dispositions and beliefs that underpin Catholic schools. Catholic schools strive to educate the whole person, taking into account academic, physical, social, and spiritual learning, in environments animated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ in which genuine dialogue with others deepens each person’s understanding of oneself, others and God. Service learning achieves this through working for the common good in solidarity with others, upholding their dignity and right to full participation in their community. Consequently, service learning can take many forms. These range from action which promotes the dignity of those who are marginalised and vulnerable, through to raising awareness of issues and seeking structural social change in order to build communities in which all people can live in justice and peace.

What are the Benefits of Service Learning?

Service learning has positive impacts on both the community as well as the students involved. In Catholic schools, service learning provides a way for students to enact compassion, hope and justice, in the interests of creating kinder and more connected communities. For Catholic schools, learning that is situated in, and addresses the needs of, the contemporary world, is an important part of witnessing God’s love. The additional benefits of service learning for students can be wide-ranging, and include personal development, encouraging active participation in the community, career exploration, and assisting students to establish social networks.

How is Service Learning Organised?

Townsville Catholic Education schools provide opportunities for service learning in age-appropriate, safe and supported ways. At all levels of education, service learning is well planned, purposeful and connected to the school’s mission and local context. Some schools partner with well established local groups who are meeting the specific social justice needs of the area. Other opportunities for service learning include visits to aged care facilities, connecting with groups within the community through initiatives such as ‘Grandfriends’ mornings, and immersions. A number of schools have well established partnerships with Vinnies, facilitated by Mini Vinnies groups and participation in Vinnies School Sleepouts. Young Christian Students (YCS) is another pathway for students to experience service learning that is student-led, discerning and grounded in Christian social thinking. Participation in all of these service learning activities is complemented by the essential element of structured intentional processes of self-reflection, to guide students in their journey of self-awareness and encounter.

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