Engaging your students without being face-to-face, in the middle of a pandemic with all the world’s distractions, is a special challenge. I’ve spent my career working with teachers like you in K-12 and Higher Education, searching for the right content, technology tools, and now with H2O for Life, service-learning opportunities to help you engage, educate, and inspire your students.
In his article, What is Service Learning or Community Engagement, Joe Bandy, the Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University outlines what service-learning is, how it benefits students, and tips for teachers to integrate it into existing courses. Service-learning, or community engagement pedagogies, combine learning goals with community service that contribute to student development and a global common good. Learning outcomes include improved critical thinking, problem analysis and problem-solving, and students’ ability to apply what they have learned “in the real world.” Social outcomes include a greater inter-cultural understanding, improved social responsibility and citizenship skills, and greater involvement in community service after graduation.
In her Inside Higher Ed article, Reimagining Service Learning in the Digital Age, Laken Brooks (Twitter: @lakenbrooks222), an English PhD student at the University of Florida, describes her experience assigning a service-learning project in the time of COVID-19. She describes the challenge she and her colleagues face trying to bring a sense of humanity into their online classrooms. She believes the call for a human-centric education is now even more urgent, and her students took up the challenge of a recommended service-learning assignment, utilizing digital platforms in innovative new ways. Brooks and her students learned that service-learning can transcend the screen to reconnect with their communities.
Drawing on these two articles and my experience with H2o for Life, a service-learning school partner working to solve the global water crisis, I would recommend these three action items you can take as an educator to engage and connect your students:
- Create community and connection—your students (and you!) are feeling the effects of isolation while teaching and learning at home. Build a feeling of empowered connection through a service-learning project.
- Engage and inspire— when students learn about the global water crisis, the effects of climate change, or homelessness in their own community, they will be inspired to take action.
- Develop global citizenship—there is no time like now, during a global pandemic, to better illustrate how we are all in this together.
So isn’t now the right time for more community engagement through service-learning to make our remote learning a little less remote?
Ilse Wolfe is the managing partner at NEW Education Solutions and currently doing outreach for H2O for Life, a service-learning nonprofit working to help solve the global water crisis. Ilse is passionate about equity and access in education and helping to develop a new generation of global citizens. Follow Ilse on Twitter (@ilseNEW) or connect with her on LinkedIn to start a conversation.