Service learning is a form of experiential learning whereby students apply content knowledge, critical thinking and good judgment to address genuine community needs. Through service learning, students can make a difference in their communities—and by making a difference they grow and learn. Real-world application of knowledge gained in the classroom makes both the classroom learning and the service experience more valuable and interesting. The Minnesota Department of Education seeks to increase the number of learners in service experiences that provide immediate relevance to academic studying as well as opportunities for learners to demonstrate how to solve real-world problems. Districts across the state continue to integrate service learning into their curriculum.

Service learning can be categorized as direct, indirect, or advocacy service.

  • Direct service learning allows students to work directly with the people to be benefitted from their service. Students learn to take responsibility for their actions and receive immediate feedback in the process of service. Examples of Direct service could include reading to small children, working with senior citizens, or analyzing water samples and presenting findings to a pollution control agency.
  • Indirect service learning involves students working behind the scenes on projects to serve a given audience or region. Students identify and combine needed resources to solve a problem without working directly with a service recipient. These types of projects are generally done by groups and promote organization skills and teamwork. Examples of Indirect service could include landscaping a public park or collecting food or clothing for disadvantaged families.
  • Advocacy service learning requires students to use their time and their voice to identify and raise public awareness of problems. Students learn to present issues and concerns clearly and concisely to engage stakeholders in developing feasible solutions. Examples of advocacy service could include increasing literacy among migrant families or improving access to health care options for homeless individuals.