Reflections on the 3rd Annual Service Learning Conference

Posted on November 16, 2009

On Friday I attended the 3rd Annual Service Learning Conference sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Bergen County where I had an opportunity to lead a discussion for community and faith based organizations. The conference was an opportunity to hear from experts in the field, address some of the challenges we grapple with and to network with colleagues. Here are some of my take aways:

  1. We need to convene schools that already do service learning to share programs, best practices and to grow the field. With technology this should be relatively easy to do.
  2. Schools need to get students involved when they are young and should not wait until middle school or even high school. The earlier kids are involved the better it is for them, their schools and communities.
  3. Agencies need to make an effort to provide suitable programs for younger students and family opportunities. This is something that Areyvut constantly tries to address with our partner agencies.
  4. Service learning is not the same as community service or volunteerism. We do a disservice to service learning by using other terms to describe the work.
  5. Schools need to identify the goal of a project or program before implementing it. For example, how many schools have mandated community service hours without having a goal for the program? What is the point of doing a program if you do not have a goal?!
  6. While the teachers, guidance counselors, community and faith based organizations are important the students are clearly the focal point of this work and we need to remember that.
  7. We need to articulate the benefits of service learning such as public speaking, consensus building and connecting to community when we implement programs.
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