Category Archives: Differentiation
Community-service learning is the first step in service learning which is followed by community exploration and action. It is the phase where students begin to be involved; generally by volunteering. When students engage in community-service learning, they begin by perceiving issues and then taking the first steps to become involved in mitigating these issues. It is generally tied to the overall school curriculum and produces a high level of service. Increased learning comes as students further explore the issues and take action.
Community service is an excellent fit for GT students who often question the validity and importance of what they are being taught. It can increase personal responsibility, self-awareness, and empathy. It is authentic learning based on real-life experiences that students care about. It can provide a challenging curriculum to reinvigorate students who felt they weren’t learning anything new in school. Community service provides GT students the opportunity to engage in independent work, work at a much faster rate than regular classroom activities, and be exposed to more in-depth content. It exposes students to professionals in the field, research practice, and application of strategies to solve real world problems; often for the first time.
When should community-service learning be introduced to students? Even very young GT students can become involved in and benefit from community-service learning. They need opportunity to investigate interests and act creativity in response to those interests. Community-service learning is a way to introduce basic academic skills to students as early as kindergarten and to develop higher-level thinking as well as working in cooperation with other students. It is a vehicle to develop and exercise leadership skills and self-management skills involving social, moral, and ethical issues for K-12 GT students.
What strategies can be used to incorporate community-service learning in the curriculum? All aspects of community-service learning should include the student – from initial brainstorming of topics, to planning projects, and finally implementing eventual activities. It is a good idea to require some form of community service; either through curriculum modifications or in gifted student’s IEPs. Be cognizant of the need that experiences be authentic and grant credit. Interdisciplinary courses involving community service as well as unique service courses involving student government, leadership, and conflict management are all ways to incorporate this type of learning.
How should community service be assessed? Students should demonstrate how they utilized their time and produce evidence of learning when being assessed for community-service learning. They can present problems addressed, research conducted, and solutions found while participating in community-service learning. Students may also be required to show how they participated through engagement vehicles (contacts made, speeches, videos, etc.), journals, awards received, or mentor evaluations.
Parents can have a profound effect on a child’s willingness or even eagerness to participate in community-service learning as role models and by providing opportunities to explore special interests. They can support programs that encourage community service in their child’s school. Parents can serve as partners in participation by supporting their child’s efforts to engage in community service and as facilitators for class-wide projects.
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About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning to Give (website)
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (website)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.