June 30, 2006

A Summer of Service-Learning

Yesterday, as I was watching the daily morning news show a feature piece aired about summer learning opportunities for young people. During the interview, the director of the Center for Summer Learning discuss the importance of keeping young people’s minds active during the summer to prevent the “summer slide”.

A consistent theme throughout his suggestions was for parents and caregivers to engage their children in “real” learning. Many examples of experiential learning peppered his remarks: planting a garden to learn about science, cooking to hone math skills, trips to museums, nature hikes and even neighborhood walk-abouts. Yet, disappointingly the suggestions never made the next step to talk about individual service-learning work that could happen over the summer. Summer is not only a time that young people put down books and computers for academic purposes, but it is also a time when service-learning often stops or slows.

While we generally do think about service-learning in a classroom, we also need to think about its power and potential in out of school settings. The summer presents an excellent time for service-learning projects to escape some of the challenges associated with the schools year—particularly limited time. Now, parents, caregivers and summer programs can work with students and schools to identify projects that build on the skills learned during a given school year. Crafting these projects can not only prevent the academic slide teachers are worried about, but it will also bolster civic responsibility among young people.

There are many resources on the internet available to help parents and other summer caregivers work with schools to find ways to get involved. Theses resources are generally geared towards involvement during the school year, but can serve as an excellent jumping off point to create service-learning experiences for this summer. Links to these resources can be found on the Service Learning Exchange’s website.

Have a great summer, tis the season for service-learning!

~Jessica Bynoe, National Coordinator, Youth Innovation Fund

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