Learn how our school uses a service-learning curriculum to help students achieve higher levels of academic success and grow as civic leaders in our community.

Service-learning opportunities 

The Bryan Allen Stevenson School of Excellence (BASSE) uses an academic service-learning curriculum. This teaching method combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning. Students apply their classroom knowledge to community problems, creating a cycle of learning, action, and reflection. Each student has three significant service-learning project experiences throughout their student life at BASSE.

Class-based service-learning project

In the middle grades (including freshman year of high school), projects are teacher-driven. This gives students experience and confidence working independently. Gradually, they lead their projects as a class demonstrating their preparedness to enter the next phase of service-learning design. 

Small-group service-learning projects 

In their sophomore year, students work together with other like-minded peers. They research, design, and implement their small-group projects based on the knowledge and skills gained from previous class-based projects.

Individualized Service Practicum (ISP) 

In their junior and senior years, students complete an Individualized Service Practicum (ISP). Each student selects an organization, identifies their project’s focus and design, and conducts the necessary research. Their assigned Advisory Teacher and the Community Partnerships department ensure alignment with the student’s personalized learning plan and support them every step of the way. Students must document their experiences through a traditional paper or a unique portfolio (which includes a written component) by the end of their senior year.

Service-learning is a research-based practice with many educational and social benefits for students. It positively impacts academic performance, school success, civic engagement, leadership, and commitment to community service.

Benefits of service-learning

Improved academic performance and related school success measures

Overall, research demonstrates that students engaged in service-learning have an academic advantage over students without service-learning experiences. 

  • Score significantly higher on proficiency tests and state academic assessments
  • Earn higher grades
  • Less likely to drop out

Service-learning also impacts factors closely related to school success.

  • Higher levels of motivation for and interest in their learning
  • Increased self-esteem 
  • Opportunities to act more independently
  • Better attendance
  • Greater resilience
  • Leadership skills

Other studies have shown that students had a more robust set of job and career-related skills and aspirations.

  • Knowledge of planning activities
  • Desire to pursue post-secondary education
  • Greater job interview skills

Greater community engagement and leadership skills

There is also a body of literature that concludes students engaged in service-learning score significantly higher on measures of civic engagement, leadership, and community connectedness. Students show increased awareness of societal issues and willingness to take active roles. Here are a few highlights of the research.

  • Connection to the community – Students have a greater sense of efficacy. They have stronger connections to community norms and values, contributing to community cohesion. 
  • Civic attitudes and behaviors – In both the Serve America and Learn and Serve Programs, a national study showed that service-learning experiences positively impacted students’ civic attitudes and behaviors—particularly in personal and social responsibility, service leadership, and acceptance of diversity and communications skills.
  • Commitment to justice – In the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s City Works Program, research showed that students engaged in service-learning demonstrated a greater commitment to becoming active citizens and adopting justice-oriented service values. 
  • Social capital development – A study of rural communities found student social capital development was much higher in students who participated in service-learning.

Download our service-learning research brief to learn more and access our citations.