CLAYSS

Centro Latinoamericano de Aprendizaje y Servicio Solidario

What is “service-learning”?

Learning to Serve, Serving to Learn

The practice of service-learning

Service-learning occurs when kids apply what they have learned in the classroom at the service of the community, and thus they not only help transform reality, but also learn things which are not found in books.
Service-learning occurs when children and youth shift from "recipients" to become protagonists, when they stop being regarded as "poor things", "dangerous", "superficial" or "the hope for tomorrow" to be recognized as active and creative builders of the present.
Service-learning occurs when learning is not only about describing social problems, but considering specific solutions; it occurs when learning for active citizenship is about doing things that serve those who need it, learning to participate by participating.
The following are real examples, and come from educational institutions and social organizations that are in contact with CLAYSS, and to which CLAYSS accompanies, supports, advises or trains so that they can continue developing their projects.
Service-learning occurs when learning a language happens while teaching others to read and write, learning literature happens when promoting reading in neighborhoods without books or without the habit of reading for pleasure. It occurs when in the school laboratory chemistry is learned by analyzing the quality of water consumed. When a 6th grader learns Geography by making tactile maps for the School for the Blind, and blind kids make Braille posters so that the streets of their city are more accessible to all. It occurs when kids in kindergarten help to reforest a park with plants grown by themselves in their greenhouse, and a technical school produces wheelchairs or glasses for people without access to these elements, or solar panels and hydroelectric turbines for communities without electricity.
Service-learning occurs when future teachers’ "teaching practices" leave the protected classroom model, to connect with kids in need by providing educational support, acting as tutors, and discovering together that everyone can learn, even those that traditional schools expel.
Service-learning occurs when medicine students leave the hospital to go and knock doors in shanty towns, diagnose and treat child malnutrition before it is too late. It occurs when Architecture and Design students move away from the mockup to the construction of a communal dining room, when designing models of toys that can be produced by community based enterprises. When Agronomy students generate networks of urban gardens for the unemployed and veterinary students advise smaller rural producers.
When universities stop measuring academic quality by looking at publications only, and begin to calibrate it by calculating the learning and research impact on the community that sustain them, and by the capacity of their graduates to apply their knowledge to serve the development of their country.
Service-learning occurs when the service provided by youth or community organizations facilitates a way to learn by participating and applying knowledge: how to work together, how to obtain and manage resources, how to communicate ideas and ideals, how to influence those who have decision-making power, how to hear the voice of those who generally do not have the voice.