If you look up “What is Service Learning,” on the internet you will probably get a long and complicated definition about a pragmatic and progressive learning experience, and the cycle of action. Here is what you really need to know about service learning. 

Service Learning is when students learn educational standards by identifying and solving problems in their community. Essentially you are combining community service and project based learning in order to teach students. 

There are four main ways of accomplishing service learning: Indirect, Direct, Research-based, and Advocacy Service Learning. 

  • Direct Service Learning is face-to-face/personal, and it impacts individuals directly.

Examples: Working with the homeless or tutoring other students. 

  • Indirect Service Learning is broader than direct learning. It focuses more on issues that impact the whole community like environmental or community development projects. 

Examples: Planting trees or helping to build low-income housing in your area. 

  • Research Based Service Learning is finding, gathering, and reporting information about projects or areas of interest.

Examples: Conducting studies/creating maps for non-profits or organizations.  

  • Advocacy Service Learning is educating others about topics of public interest–projects that aim to create awareness and action on some issue that impacts the community.

Examples: Building coalitions for a policy issue or working with elected officials to draft legislation.

What are the benefits of Service Learning?

Besides the benefit of serving your community, there are other benefits to service learning. 

Below is a list of the benefits of using service learning with your children. 

  • Helps develop personal and interpersonal development
  • Helps build leadership and communication skills
  • Creates sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills
  • Helps with academic learning
  • Gives students the ability to apply what they have learned in “the real world”
  • Helps with career development
  • Gives students the skills and knowledge to increase the relevance of academic skills
  • Accommodates different learning styles
  • Increases sense of self-efficacy, analytical skills, and social development
  • Gives valuable and competitive career guidance and experience
  • Gives opportunities for meaningful involvement with the local community
  • Increases civic responsibility

How to start?

The best way to start service learning is by taking your students out to your local homeless shelter, local city nonprofits, or volunteer on campaigns and  non-profit coalitions. Here are some links to service projects that might be in your area. 


Salvation Army

Red Cross

Operation Christmas Child



Room In the Inn

Powered by Education

Volunteer Tennessee Opportunities in you area


Memphis Union Mission

Service Over Self


Area Relief Ministries


Nashville Rescue Mission


Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition


Love Kitchen – Knoxville


Family Promise