3 Things that Ruin Service-Learning


Service-learning can be the difference between a mediocre service project and a memorable and transformative one. It can help youth understand the impact of their work and how it is affecting their community. But when it’s done wrong, it can sometimes do more harm than good.

Next time you’re planning a community-based service-learning project, make sure to avoid the following:

1. Too academic – When youth sign up for a volunteer project outside of school, they want it to be exactly that—different than school. They don’t mind learning something; in fact, learning new things and expanding their horizons is often listed by youth as a top benefit of being involved with Youth Volunteer Corps! The difference is how they learn. Use interactive techniques such as a simulation or game that help youth learn about an issue without it feeling like school.

2. Adults dominating the process – Service-learning should be youth-led whenever possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that youth need to be the sole planners and facilitators (although that’s great too!). It means that youth need to be involved throughout the process, planning the project, identifying the cause they are focusing on, and steering the reflection process to ensure that the takeaways are interesting and useful to youth.

3. Missing the follow-up – There’s no use planning the best service-learning project if youth aren’t encouraged to take further action afterward and given clear steps to do so. Encourage them to sign up for a future service project to continue the learning, whether through your youth service program or as an individual at the agency where your project served. Discuss what kinds of career options exist working on this issue area. You can also brainstorm simple ways that they can keep the service going, like holding a drive at their school to collect items to help this agency out.

Looking for more tips on how to make your service-learning projects the best they can be? Browse the Project Tips section of our blog.

Share this post: