Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.
Service learning isn't just a buzzword in the world of education – when done well, it's a powerful approach to experiential learning that connects young people to their local community in ways that are both impactful and enriching. However, when done poorly, young people earn “community service hours” while ultimately having a low impact on the needs of their community.
As a project-based virtual school, we at Prisma have always prioritized building meaningful service learning projects into our curriculum. We find that service learning helps get our learners outside into their communities, helps connect what they are learning to the real world, and gives them a sense of purpose. Our learners participate in our annual Changemakers theme, where they design their own service project and also work as a team to raise money for a deserving organization.
Service learning projects are essentially initiatives that combine meaningful service to the community with solid learning objectives, allowing students to apply their coursework in real-world settings, thereby fostering critical thinking and decision-making skills.
So how do you make sure the projects you design for your learners or homeschoolers are more than just volunteering, but meaningful learning opportunities? Read on for concrete examples from our annual service learning themes and best practices from our curriculum team.
The benefits of service learning are manifold. It's more than just community service or to look good on college applications; it's a way to engage young people in civic responsibility and foster a deeper understanding of their community needs. These projects not only aid in developing competencies in essential skills for future success but also enhance civic engagement and advocacy skills that can be helpful in a range of careers.
Moreover, service-learning experiences often trigger a growth in empathy and awareness of social issues, preparing kids for a lifetime of informed and compassionate participation in their communities. By working closely with community members and nonprofit organizations, learners gain a broader perspective of the world, encouraging them to become active, contributing citizens.
Unfortunately, many service learning projects done in schools aren’t very meaningful (for the learner or the intended community being served). Designing a service project that makes a lasting impact takes more pre-planning and investment, but when done right, it’s one of the most transformative learning experiences your child can have.
Here are some guidelines we use when designing service projects at Prisma:
Now, let's delve into a few concrete service learning project ideas for your children:
Remember, the goal of a service learning project is not just to serve but to learn. As parents, we need to help our children reflect on their service work, tying their experiences back to their learning goals. Through this, we enhance their understanding of the learning, the community, and their place within it. At Prisma, we accomplish this by having an Expo Day at the end of each service learning cycle where kids present their projects and reflect on what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what they learned in the process. They also assess the impact of their project: how many people did they impact and how? How can they have a bigger impact next time?
Service learning projects provide a unique opportunity for homeschooling families to turn the world into a classroom, giving children the opportunity to learn from experiences beyond their textbooks and nurture a lifelong commitment to service. By integrating service activities into your homeschooling curriculum, you're not just teaching your kids about the world, but also how they can actively contribute to making it a better place.
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