Service Learning is defined as work that benefits others while the benefactor gains new or deeper knowledge or skills.
At Open World Learning Community, we deeply value stewardship. From the founding of our school in 1971, we have required students to go beyond state and district graduation criteria by fulfilling significant service commitments. OWL requires each graduate to perform 150 hours of school service learning and 150 hours of community service learning. Opportunities to meet this requirement abound, within classes, Crews, and through extracurricular groups. For decades, OWL graduates reflect on the profoundly heightened sense of competence, connectedness, and compassion that emerges from their service experiences.
School Service is defined as work that benefits Open World Learning Community. School Service can be earned mentoring younger students, assisting in classrooms, working at school events, cleaning and maintenance projects, and contributing to the library or school office.
Community Service is defined as work that benefits anentity or entities beyond OWL Community. OWL students have volunteered and interned at Bridge View School, local women's shelters, Como Zoo and Conservatory, the Minnesota Children's Museum, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mosaic on a Stick, the Salvation Army, and area hospitals.
Service Learning is one of the distinguishing strengths of Open School graduates. However, it can be challenging to find the perfect volunteer opportunity from scratch. Here are some suggestions and links to get you started.
Finding the Best Service Learning Job
- Look for an opportunity that matches your interests. Make a list of what you love to do — or what you would love to learn to do. Think about what you have to offer and what you would like to learn. Then talk with a parent or teacher to brainstorm ways to use your skills to help others. When you give of yourself by doing something you enjoy, you will have more fun than you can imagine.
- Make a long-term commitment. You will learn more, make more friends, and be able to witness the positive change that results from your efforts. Once you get in the habit of volunteering once a week, you'll be amazed at how quickly the hours add up.
- Reflect on your experiences. Grab a notebook and write down a couple of sentences while you're coming home each week. It doesn't have to be a lot. After a year, you'll be amazed at how much your perspective has changed. This will also make that graduation portfolio reflection letter much easier to write!
Open School is a caring place where service to the school and wider community forms the foundation for students to live their lives as active citizens.
Community Service Projects
Although many students complete service projects in their home or church communities, OWL offers coordination of service placements, service-based enrichment classes, and a community experience class.
- Interns: Students partner with local business to intern in art (Mosaic on a Stick), science (Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Como Planetarium), IT, and other areas.
- Docents: OWL students have served at the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
- Music and Movement: OWL students have worked at Bridge View School with students with developmental disabilities in a music therapy class.
- Kids Against Hunger: OWL students organize and lead food-packing events at several schools throughout St. Paul.
- Outward Bound Service Adventure: OWL students travel to Outward Bound base camps, serve as maintenance crews, and learn about the Outward Bound philosophy through mini-adventures such as rock climbing, ropes courses, and canoe trips.
Service Learning in the Curriculum
Expeditionary Learning provides a framework for incorporating service projects directly into classroom work, allowing students to apply knowledge in meaningful ways. A few examples include:
- AP Environmental Science students studying ecosystems in Crosby Park work with St. Paul Parks and Recreation to restore an oak forest.
- English students examining teen culture in American literature develop materials to help parents better understand their teens.
- Social Studies students volunteer to support political campaigns of their choice