A Guide to Global Service in Your School



Community Service vs. Service Learning

What is Community Service?

Community service is service that is non-curriculum based and that does not involve any explicit learning objectives, critical analysis, or targeted reflection. Such activities can be either mandatory or voluntary and may take place either on or off school grounds. Some of these are required part of the school activities; others are youth initiated activities. They can be school-wide events, school-sponsored club activities (e.g. National Honor Society), or programs run by outside volunteer organizations.*

Examples of community service include:

  • Volunteering at a local shelter

  • Picking up trash in a nearby park

  • Holding a fundraiser for an international charity

  • Organizing a get out the vote campaign for youth

What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is service that is integrated into classroom instruction, is a clear component of an academic course or curriculum, has explicitly stated learning objectives, and involves organized reflection or critical analysis activities. This program provides an opportunity to use the outline writing service when writing academic papers of varying degrees of complexity. Thanks to the implementation of such a proposal, we were able to attract many students of various specialties to the implementation of projects. Service-learning also engages youth in active decision making and responds in a sustained manner to real community needs, whether they are in the immediate school community, the surrounding neighborhood, or in the larger world.** Moreover, service learning that is integrated into courses in a global/international studies school helps students to see connections between their actions and pressing global issues.

Examples of service-learning include:

  • A science class works with a local environmental agency to help monitor the water and soil composition of a nearby river, ultimately linking the local results to global issues of water quality

  • Language arts students serve as tutors to younger students who are writing letters to the editor of a national newspaper

  • A history class studying immigration policies partners with a local library to create an exhibit featuring the oral histories of local immigrants

  • Math students record and graph parking patterns nearby the school in order to recommend a carpooling solution to avoid overcrowding. Students reflect on the implications their efforts have on issues such as global warming and oil consumption.

* Peter C. Scales and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Community Service and Service-Learning in U.S. Public Schools, 2004: Findings from a National Survey, Minnesota: National Youth Leadership Council, 2004, 5.
** Scales and Roehlkepartain 5. See also: Edward B. Fiske, Learning in Deed: The Power of Service-Learning for American Schools, National Commission on Service-Learning, 2000, 16-17.



Benefits of Service-Learning

What are the benefits to students?

A study by the National Commission on Service-Learning, cosponsored by the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, conducted in 2000, found that well-implemented service-learning programs that link service to specific educational goals and standards, facilitate reflection and discussion, and provide real choices for students within all aspects of the service projects have academic and intellectual, civic and ethical, and social and personal benefits. Specific benefits include:*

  • Academic: Service-learning can increase students’ academic engagement and motivation, can improve academic achievement as measured by both homework assignments and standardized tests, and can improve students’ analytical and problem-solving skills.

  • Civic and Ethical: Service-learning fosters a sense of belonging and commitment to a community and promotes responsibility, trustworthiness, and social competence.

  • Social and Personal Development: Service-learning helps to reduce risky and problem behaviors both within and outside of the immediate school setting, increasing awareness of a variety of careers, and encouraging positive workplace attitudes.
* Fiske 25-29. See also: Corporation for National and Community Service, Students in Service to America, Washington, D.C., 2002, 14-15.

What are the benefits to the school and the community?

When practiced school-wide or at least by a critical mass of teachers, service-learning can promote cohesiveness and mutual respect both amongst teachers and between students and teachers. Students feel more connected to their school and teachers engage more in conversations about teaching and learning, which can reinvigorate educators and stimulate innovative instructional practices. Service-learning also fosters closer connections between the school and the local community, can contribute to new positive perceptions of young people as responsible, resourceful contributors, and can help communities directly by meeting their real needs and demands.**

** Fiske 29. Corporation 15. See also: Daniel Weiler, Amy LaGoy, Eric Crane, and Abby Rovner, Executive Summary: Phase II Final Report, July 1998, California Department of Education, 9 September 2004 <http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/sl/execsummary.asp>.



Characteristics of Effective Service

Educators and researchers have identified the following 7 characteristics of effective community service and service-learning:*

  • Sustained Involvement – The guidebook published by the Corporation for National and Community Service recommends that service activities should last for a minimum of 40 hours per school year in order to have a beneficial impact on the students and the community.

  • Connection to Curriculum/Academic Standards – Aligning service programs with specific learning objectives not only helps to make explicit to students the lessons and practices to be learned, but also can transform service-learning into a performance-based assessment tool used to demonstrate mastery of school, district, or state standards across all areas of the curriculum. In a global/international studies school, every service learning opportunity should help students develop the habits of mind that help them to recognize the global implications of every action, no matter how local.

  • Reflection – Reflection, such as journal writing, in-class discussions, or other organized analytical exercises, enables students to think critically about their service experiences and to evaluate possible causes and solutions to issues that arose during their activities. In a global/international studies school, these activities should help students to reflect on the global, national, regional, and local impact of their actions.

  • Student Leadership – In order to foster leadership, responsibility, and accountability, students should play an active role in decision-making at all stages of the service project, from assessing community needs, to planning activities, to implementing a program.

  • Strong Community Partnerships – Service programs designed to address real community needs identified by both the students and the community members help to strengthen school-community relations and to create a foundation for sustainable projects.

  • Teacher Preparation and Professional Development – In order for teachers to be able to link service with the curriculum, to lead reflection activities, and to collaborate with partners, quality teacher preparation and professional development opportunities must be available. Training should focus both on logistical and organizational issues for implementing service programs as well as on pedagogical considerations.

  • Institutional Support – School-wide support of service-learning includes fostering a climate in which service learning is regarded as an integral part of all students’ educational experiences as well as more specifically enabling teachers to have ample time to prepare for such activities, engaging a part or full-time service-learning coordinator at the school or district level, creating a flexible in-school schedule that permits block scheduling, which allows for extended class time, or sanctioning after-school programs.

*Adapted from Fiske 30-35; Corporation 9; and Weiler, LaGoy, Crane, and Rovner.



Service as a High School Graduation Requirement

Though the specifics of service requirements for graduation may vary from school to school and from district to district, most policies include the following dimensions:

  • Duration – the minimum time required. Duration may also refer to the minimum number of hours that must be devoted to a specific project. While duration can be measured in hours, semesters, or even years, it can also be conceived of in terms of projects in order to take the emphasis away from a time requirement and place the focus on participation in intentional learning experiences.*

  • Time Frame – the academic year in which this service must be completed (i.e. not before the start of 9th grade but before the first day of 12th grade, etc.).
  • Location – whether valid service includes activities that take place on school grounds or only those completed off campus (locally, nationally, or internationally).
  • Nature of Service – a list of specific activities that are either permitted or prohibited. This list may distinguish between unpaid or paid positions, projects conducted as part of school sponsored events or with independent service organizations, projects targeting specific populations, and projects that require a low or high level of student engagement with the target community and/or with the school curriculum.
  • Documentation – a form to be completed by the student and signed by his/her service supervisor detailing at minimum the location and nature of the service project, the student’s responsibilities, and a record of the student’s hours.
  • Reflection – an oral or written critical analysis of the student’s service experience. This may take the form of a journal, a portfolio, an in-class presentation, or a final project. While some schools do not require a reflection component at all, those schools that have explicit service-learning policies require that service is accompanied by reflection that links the out-of-class activities to subject material being studied in the classroom.
  • Evaluation – a clearly stated policy on grading. While some schools distinguish only between satisfactory or unsatisfactory completion of the service requirement, others award specific letter grades or points as part of a larger class or as a stand alone measure on a report card. Evaluations may include feedback from teachers as well as from the student’s service project supervisor.

* Kenny Holdsman and David Tuchmann, District Lessons Number 2 - The Philadelphia Story: A Guide to Service-Learning System Building, National Service-Learning Partnership, 2004, 22 February 2006 <http://www.service-learningpartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pub_distlessons2>, 10.



Coordinating Service at the School Level

A service coordinator at the school can help to implement and enhance service at your school to ensure that each student can fulfill the graduation requirement.

What are the specific responsibilities of a service coordinator?*

  • Create a plan for the school. At minimum, the plan should clearly define the service graduation requirement and appropriate projects, establish a system for tracking student service, and outline community outreach efforts. Disseminate plan as appropriate to all school staff, faculty, and administrators. Communicate with other other service-learning practioners to share best practices, tools, and resources.

  • Act as a community liaison. Develop and maintain partnerships with local, national, and international community organizations for individual and multi-student project sites. Help bring interested community and business organizations in to the school.

  • Place and track students. For each student, match student interests to community needs, regularly review individual placements, help resolve any problems that arise, coordinate communication between students and site supervisors, and track student hours.

  • Conduct on-going evaluations of each placement site in order to assess the nature and quality of the activities associated with the placement, opportunities for new projects, and/or capacity for more or fewer students.

  • Assist teachers in developing new and adapting existing curriculum and creating rubrics and/or other measures to assess student learning. Train teachers on effective service principles and practices and model service-learning in the classroom.

  • Coordinate media outreach to share innovative projects and newsworthy successes. Present achievements at various workshops and conferences.

  • Research and write grants to support local, national, and international service projects.

* Adapted from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. <http://dpi.wi.gov/fscp/samplejs.html>.

Who can act as a service coordinator?

  • Part- or full-time professional – A school can hire an additional staff member to act as a part or full-time service coordinator, whose primary responsibilities are those listed above. This person would have prior knowledge of and experience with service in schools as well as expertise in teacher training and curriculum development.

  • Teacher – In addition to his or her teaching responsibilities, a teacher could be stipended to act as a service coordinator. While this may alleviate financial burdens posed when hiring a separate staff member as a service coordinator, it is important to factor in time and burnout when considering a teacher for this position.

  • Parent, College/University Interns, or Volunteer Corps Members – While parents, volunteer or paid interns from local colleges or universities, and volunteer corps members (such as AmeriCorps) can be extremely enthusiastic and capable at forging community partnerships, finding engaging projects for students, and acting as role models, they do not always have the curriculum development expertise or the sway with faculty needed to fully integrate service into the classroom.*

* Kenny Holdsman and David Tuchmann, District Lessons Number 2 - The Philadelphia Story: A Guide to Service-Learning System Building, National Service-Learning Partnership, 2004, 22 February 2006 <http://www.service-learningpartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pub_distlessons2>, 17.



Getting Started

How Can Our School Start a Service Project?

The Corporation for National and Community Service recommends the following ten steps for creating an effective service project. While these steps are intended as a guide for teachers or others coordinating service, they should also include the full and active participation of students as much as possible.

  • Step 1: Assess the Needs and Resources of Your Community and School
  • Step 2: Form Community Partnerships
  • Step 3: Set Specific Educational Goals and Curriculum
  • Step 4: Select a Project and Begin Preliminary Planning
  • Step 5: Plan Your Project in Detail
  • Step 6: Acquire Necessary Funding and Resources
  • Step 7: Implement and Manage the Project
  • Step 8: Organize Reflection Activities
  • Step 9: Assess and Evaluate Student Learning and Project Success
  • Step 10: Celebrate Achievements

Corporation for National and Community Service, Students in Service to America, Washington, D.C., 2002.

Who Can Help Guide Our School Through this Process?

The following organizations will be able provide you with assistance on issues ranging from effective practices to project ideas to curriculum resources to teacher training and professional development.

  • National Service-Learning Partnership
    The National Service-Learning Partnership is a leadership organization that works with its 7,300 individual and organizational members to promote and strengthen service learning at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. On the site can be found policy, advocacy, and teaching resources as well as links to other national service learning organizations.

  • National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
    The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse serves as an online library and resource center for service learning in kindergarten through twelfth grade, higher education, community-based initiatives, and tribal programs. Amongst other features, the site offers sample service-learning curricula, academic research on the impact of service-learning, assessment and evaluation tools, links to funding sources, and a program directory.

  • National Service-Learning Exchange
    The National Service-Learning Exchange supports quality service-learning programs in schools, colleges and universities, and community organizations by linking staff and peer mentors with individuals and groups for one-on-one assistance. Mentors can lend their own expertise on effective service-learning practices, curricula, resources, and training opportunities.

  • Corporation for National and Community Service
    The Corporation for National and Community Service was created by Congress in 1993 to expand opportunities for service for people of all ages and backgrounds through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America. The website provides general resources on service-learning programs as well as specific information on grants.

  • Students in Service to America
    Students in Service to America is a site sponsored by the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse that provides general background information on service-learning as well as specific tools and resources geared more towards educators or program developers. The resources are broken down in to the following subcategories: getting started/toolkits, finding help, civic and character education links, national organizations that work with youth, after-school programs, nonprofit service clubs and organizations, and recognition programs.

Where Can We Find Ideas for International Projects?

The organizations listed in the previous section are all excellent resources for project ideas and can offer invaluable suggestions for ways to form partnerships with the local community. In addition, the following organizations all offer internationally oriented service opportunities or serve as information clearinghouses for other organizations that do implement such programs.

  • Global Youth Action Network
    Global Youth Action Network is a nonprofit organization that fosters global partnerships among youth organizations, facilitates youth participation in global decision-making, and provides resources for and recognition of youth action. Its four main initiatives are Chat the Planet, an amalgamation of television and internet programming forming connections throughout the globe; Global Youth Service Day (in conjunction with Youth Service America), which mobilizes millions of young volunteers across the world; the Youth Participation Initiative, which focuses on youth participation in decision-making; and the Global Youth in Action Awards, which recognize student-initiated projects.

  • Human Rights 101
    Human Rights 101 is an initiative by Thirteen to increase awareness among youth regarding human rights and to convey to them that by getting involved in local human rights organizations and projects they can make a difference. The site provides a brief description of 25 human rights organizations and lists contact details for the New York metropolitan area.

  • Idealist.org – Kids and Teens
    Idealist.org is a site run by Action Without Borders that provides both individuals and other nonprofit organizations with resources and support, such as descriptions and contact information of organizations, internships, volunteer opportunities, and jobs. The site has a specific section devoted to kids and teens that describes ways in which kids can start their own projects, lists examples of such projects, and offers a search engine for finding existing service opportunities by location.

  • Net Aid
    NetAid is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with the United Nations and the private sector in order to eliminate poverty. NetAid World Class offers educational materials that teach young people about the challenges faced by poor children in developing countries, and how youth activism can help make a difference. The links page lists 6 additional sites for youth to learn about world issues and other countries, 10 organizations that offer hands-on youth service projects, and 4 books about social action for kids.

  • Network for Good – Youth Volunteer Network
    Network for Good is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the Web to help people get more involved in their communities. Network for Good and YouthNOISE, an online community of young people worldwide, sponsor the Youth Volunteer Network, a site that provides resources on social action for youth and a search engine for finding volunteer opportunities.

  • What Kids Can Do
    What Kids Can Do is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that provides examples to educators, policy makers, journalists, community members, and students of youth working together with teachers and other adults on community service and learning projects. Their mission “is connecting the previously separate fields of school reform, youth development, community development, service learning, and school-to-work” through research, journalism, and advocacy. Under the Youth Action, Citizenship, and Service section of their Resources page is a list of 27 other organizations that either directly offer service opportunities or act as clearinghouses for additional information on finding such opportunities.

  • Youth Philanthropy Worldwide
    Youth Philanthropy Worldwide strives to promote youth participation in the global community by identifying key issues in which young people can get involved. They provide links to other organizations that offer opportunities for youths to directly address these international initiatives.

  • Youth Service America
    Youth Service American is a nonprofit organization committed to providing quality volunteer opportunities to people ages 5 to 25. SERVEnet is a program of Youth Service America that has over 6,000 registered nonprofit organizations, over 35,000 service projects, and over 52,000,000 volunteer opportunities. Individuals can enter their zip code, city, state, skills, interests, and availability to find a service or volunteer opportunity that best suits them.


During and After Service


An integral part of any service activity is reflection. Students should be given the opportunity to think about the meaning of their service and how their experiences shape their ideas, knowledge, and perceptions throughout the course of their involvement in a project. While on-going reflection activities such as weekly journal entries can help students to trace the development of their thoughts over time, students should also analyze their service at its completion. The following are a sampling of potential reflection activities compiled by the Points of Light Foundation.


  • One-on-One meetings with the teacher/project leader
  • Whole-class / group discussion
  • Oral report to the class / group
  • Oral presentation for parents, teachers, agency staff, community leaders, policy makers
  • Discussions with community members or experts on an issue raised by the project


  • Photo, slide, or video essay
  • Painting, drawings, collages, or other artwork
  • Dance, music, or theatre presentations
  • Portfolio of images and essays


  • Essay or research paper
  • Journal or log (daily, weekly, etc.)
  • Case study or history
  • Guide for future volunteers / participants
  • Self-evaluation or project evaluation
  • Newspaper, magazine, or other published article
  • Narrative for a video, film, or slide show

Other Activities:

  • Simulation or role playing
  • Plan a training session for future volunteers
  • Recruit peers to serve
  • Teach project lesson to younger students


Evaluations can be used to assess not only the performance of each student, but also the outcomes of the service project more broadly for the partner organizations, school, community, and individuals being served. They can be used to determine whether the project itself has achieved its intended goals and can help to identify both its strengths and its weaknesses. These results can then in turn be used by students, teachers, and project directors to enhance the service experience for all involved in the future and to suggest other possible service activities. Examples of student, teacher, and project supervisor evaluation forms are included in the sample documents section of this page. The national service organizations listed in the “Getting Started” section of this page are also excellent sources for evaluation and assessment tools.

Recognition and Celebration

By recognizing the efforts of students and community partners as well as by celebrating achievements, your school can help to encourage lifelong community service and involvement. Recognition can come in the form of awards and assembly programs, in-school or online project displays, articles in the school newsletter or local newspaper, parties, certificates, or site visits by local officials. There are also several national recognition programs, several of which are described below.

  • Congressional Award
    The U.S. Congress has created this award to “promote and recognize achievement, initiative, and service in America's youth”. Youth ages 14 to 23 are eligible to earn Bronze, Silver, and Gold Congressional Certificates and/or Medals by completing the specified number of hours and requirements in four program areas: Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.

  • Daily Point of Light Award
    The Daily Point of Light Award recognizes individuals and groups that address critical issues in their communities through service and volunteerism. The award is given each weekday to one volunteer or volunteer effort in the country.

  • President’s Volunteer Service Award
    The President’s Student Service Award is now part of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a recognition program for Americans of all ages. The award is intended to recognize those individuals, families, or groups who contribute a significant amount of time to volunteer service. Depending on the number of hours served over a 12-month period, Bronze, Silver, or Gold awards can be earned.

  • Presidential Freedom Scholarships
    Through the Presidential Freedom Scholarships program, each high school in the country may select up to two juniors or seniors to receive a $1,000 scholarship in recognition of outstanding leadership in service to their community. With funds appropriated by Congress, the Corporation provides $500 for each scholarship, which must be matched with $500 secured by the participating school from the community.


Sample Documents

The following documents can be used as guides as your school creates the documentation it needs to track student service, student learning, and project success. These documents can be adapted to your particular school setting and requirements.