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Service Learning

What is Service Learning?
Service learning is a teaching method that combines service to the community with education.  It is a hands-on approach to understanding subject material while developing civic responsibility. Service-learning offers a unique opportunity for girls to get involved with their communities in a tangible way by integrating service projects with classroom learning. Service-learning engages girls in the educational process, using new knowledge and skills to solve real-life problems. Girls not only learn about democracy and citizenship, they become active contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform.
Service-learning can be applied across all subjects and grade levels–it can involve individual girls or small groups of girls, or an entire service unit. Girls build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community to create service projects in areas like education, public safety, and the environment.

Girl Scouts have always had a long tradition of doing service projects. Service learning is a tool to take that service project to the next level. It provides a direct benefit to the girls as well as to the recipient of the service. Participation in service learning benefits girls in many ways.  By participating in service learning girls:
  • have the opportunity to learn about and gain an appreciation for people different than themselves.
  • gain an increased  awareness of current social issues.
  • broaden their perspectives of diversity issues.
  • enhance their critical thinking skills.
  • improve interpersonal skills.
  • develop civic responsibility through active involvement and understanding of their community and the local issues.
  • gain problem solving skills.   

This is why it is so important to involve the girls from the very beginning of the investigation and planning of their Councilwide Service Learning Project.
How is service learning different from community service or volunteer work?
Service learning differs from other forms of community service or volunteer work because it focuses on the education of its participants. When girls actively engage in the process of researching, understanding and applying knowledge from various resources and activities to service, they begin to gain social awareness leading to action. Through the research and implementation of their service learning project, girls will practice important leadership skills, such as critical thinking, communication, and problem solving, which will empower them to embrace leadership roles in the future.

What does service learning look like?
If girls collect trash out of an urban streambed, they are providing a valued service to the community as volunteers. If girls collect trash from an urban streambed, analyze their findings to determine the possible sources of pollution, and share the results with residents of the neighborhood, they are engaging in service-learning.
In the service learning example, in addition to providing an important service to the community, girls are learning about water quality and laboratory analysis, developing an understanding of pollution issues, and practicing communications skills. They may also reflect on their personal and career interests in science, the environment, public policy or other related areas. Both the girls and the community have been involved in a transformative experience.
What are the Councilwide Service Learning Project Topics? 
Here are some different ways to lend a hand in your community! Click on the hands below for more information about each topic, such as community resource lists, activity ideas, and more!

Earn a GREEN HAND by doing a project on recycling, conservation, pollution or cleaning up your neighborhood. Find more information on the Girl Scouts Forever Green Initiative here!
Earn a RED HAND by doing a project on healthy lifestyles, health education, diet or exercise.
Earn a PURPLE HAND by doing a project on animal care, cruelty prevention, habitat preservation, wildlife rehabilitation or animal advocacy.

Earn a YELLOW HAND by doing a project for a library, school, after school program, tutoring or other learning center.
Five Steps for Successful Service Learning
​1. Investigation
The first step to service learning is investigation. Girls will investigate the resources, skills and talents that they bring to service learning. They will also investigate the needs in the community related to the three themes. The process of investigation is a great opportunity to incorporate girl planning into the councilwide community service project.
The resource activities below are available to help troops work through the investigation phase:
​Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies

2. Preparation
​All service learning includes preparation. In the preparation phase the girls and their leaders work together to set the stage for learning and social action. They will go onto research and discuss the topic they have chosen (environmental, learning centers or healthy living) using badge work, journeys, hands-on activities, experiments, the internet and field trips.  Girls gain a greater understanding for the topic they have chosen as well as an appreciation for those who will be impacted.

We have compiled a list of community resources for each region that provide opportunities for service. This is not intended to be an all inclusive list–if you find a great place on your own, please let your program staff members know so that they can add it to the list. This list is in an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for All Regions combined, as well as a tab for each region.
Click here for the spreadsheet. To open the spreadsheet in excel and be able to sort by zip code - click "Save". Clicking "Open" will open the spreadsheet in a browser window.
Action is the direct result of the preparation step. Good preparation enables girls to confidently carry out a plan of action and applying what they have learned to help the community. During the Action step they continue to develop knowledge and skills as they meet people different from themselves and interact with their environment in meaningful ways
This is a vital and ongoing process in service learning and integrates learning and   experiences with personal growth and awareness. Using reflection enables the girls to consider how the experience, knowledge, and skills acquired relate to their own lives and their communities.

Demonstration provides evidence of what the girls have gained and accomplished through their community involvement. They exhibit their expertise through public presentations such as displays, performances, and letters to the editor or ceremonies. Celebrating accomplishments and good work is definitely valuable, but demonstration is more in keeping with the intentions of service learning. An example of combining Demonstration and Celebration would be the girls inviting community members to see their new hiking trail at the nature preserve and also planning a picnic and songfest. Celebration, when planned with thought, can benefit service learning.