Service Learning is experiential learning framework that combines meaningful community based service with academic learning outcomes. This integration enriches learning, teaches civic responsibility and strengthens communities. Students engage in reflection upon what was learned, what was experienced and how the community benefited.
Service learning, as the name implies, places a balanced emphasis on acquiring academic knowledge and skills and providing service to the community. With clear intent to learn and serve, students are positioned to see themselves as learners who will benefit from the experience and as active civic professionals who have a range of knowledge and skills to offer. In contrast, volunteering does not have an emphasis on learning.
As a vital partner in the service learning placement, a host organisation must induct the student into the Organisation and meet all the ethical and safety requirements of their workplace or context. The student requires a supervisor or mentor who will take responsibility for their activities. There are no formal assessments or evaluations the organisation to is required to undertake.
Students undertaking the subject Service Learning for Sustainable Futures are nearing the end of their degree at James Cook University. Most are Education students who have studied to be teachers in Early Childhood, Primary or Secondary school. Some students will also have studied social services and sustainability.
Students are required to complete a minimum of 50 hours service as part of their studies and to complete assessment tasks before and after this experience. Students are asked to be part of or undertake projects with organisations that work towards a more sustainable community. UNESCO’s four pillars of sustainability are used to guide a holistic understanding of sustainability. These pillars are ecological, social, economic and political and facilitate systemic thinking about issues and needs in our community.
Students can take on a myriad of roles in the organisation. They are responsible for justifying to the university how their service roles will fulfil their learning goals and be worthwhile contributions to the community. Students are encouraged to discuss and establish shared goals with their host organisation and go beyond a passive volunteer. Importantly, the role they take on should further the capacity of the organisation and not be an imposition or liability.
Once their placement is formally approved by the coordinator of Service Learning for Sustainable Futures, students will be fully insured by James Cook University. James Cook University provides a comprehensive range of insurance covers.