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The Complete Guide to Service Learning

Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action (Revised & Updated Second Edition)


The Complete Guide to Service Learning is the go-to resource in the fast-growing field of service learning. It is an award-winning treasury of service activities, community service project ideas, quotes, reflections, and resources that can help teachers and youth workers engage young hearts and minds in reaching out and giving back. Author and internationally known service learning expert Cathryn Berger Kaye presents service learning—its importance, steps, essential elements, and challenges—within a curricular context and organized by theme. This second edition maintains the easy-to-use format of the original and is enhanced to reflect the most up-to-date information on service learning programs and pedagogy.

Benefits include:

  • A blueprint for service learning, from getting started to assessing the experience
  • Integration of K–12 service learning standards
  • Inspiring quotations, background information and resources, preparation activities, real-life examples and community service project ideas that have worked for other teachers
  • 13 thematic chapters covering topics commonly selected for service learning projects such as animal protection and care, elders, emergency readiness, the environment, hunger and homelessness, literacy, special needs, and more
  • Hundreds of real-life field-tested service learning projects
  • Ideas for fortifying service learning programs by incorporating global literacy and creating a culture of service

The online digital content with over 200 pages of forms and bonus materials includes:

  • All of the planning and tracking forms from the book, many customizable 
  • 39 sample planning templates for all service learning themes at each grade level
  • 10 original essays written by experts in the field
  • 22 author interviews, including interviews with authors Laurie David, Cynthia Lord, Jordan Sonnenblick, Kathe Koja, Danica Novgorodoff, Janet Tashjian, Deborah Ellis, Sonia Levitin, Ellen Senisi, and more!
  • More than 300 additional “Bookshelf” recommendations that describe books that offer teachable moments about community service, responsibility, caring, and helping, as well as ways to encourage discussion and combine literature and service learning.

Drawing on her years as a classroom teacher and international service learning consultant, trainer, speaker, and program developer, Cathryn Berger Kaye tells you everything you want and need to know about service learning. Recommended for K–12 teachers and administrators, college and university faculty, youth group leaders, government agencies and nonprofits, and after-school programs.

Teachers, parents, and group leaders: Use this valuable resource in a classroom or youth-serving organization, after-school program, or as a family.

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ISBN: 978-1-57542-345-6
Audience: Teachers, grades K–12
Trim Size: 8.5" x 11"
Page Count: 288
Digital Content: Includes reproducible forms from the book and bonus materials

Praise for The Complete Guide to Service Learning:
“How can teachers begin or support a service learning program in their classroom or school? What role does [it] play in the curriculum? What are the true benefits to society and to students? . . . Kaye answers these questions and more.”—Curriculum Connections

“If there is a bible of K–12 service learning, it is Cathryn Berger Kaye’s The Complete Guide to Service Learning.”—Youth Service California

The Complete Guide to Service Learning has been my go-to resource for sharing ideas with our partner organizations and with anyone who says, ‘Tell me about service learning.’ Rich in information, ideas, and practical suggestions, this guide inspires and reminds me how important our youth are and what valuable contributors they can be. Cathryn’s book brings learning and service to life.”—Elaine Leibsohn, America’s Promise Alliance

Praise for the previous edition:
“An informative book for those interested in creating or overseeing service-learning programs.”—Youth Today

“A wonderful step-by-step guide with handy tips and practical advice. An outstanding resource, a must-have.”—VOYA

“A rich resource.”—Library Media Connection

  • Seal of Excellence, Council for Service-Learning
  • Common Core State Standards

    The Complete Guide to Service Learning and the Common Core

    The Complete Guide to Service Learning is used globally to assist in developing engaging teaching methods where students again and again meet and exceed the Common Core State Standards. The process of service learning provides a reliable and practical framework for inquiry, analysis, planning, interdisciplinary thinking, international mindedness, and application of knowledge and skills to meet authentic and verifiable needs.

    As educators and parents we want the best for our children. We aim to provide optimum learning experiences transferable to children’s lives outside of school that guide them to adulthood with a solid sense of personal efficacy and the ability to make choices and decisions healthy for themselves and our society. For this to actually occur, students benefit from real-world applications of their academic learning while they are still in school, using a research-based approach called service learning. This approach provides them with a laboratory to practice, review, reassess, and reflect upon their service, all with the guidance and support of knowledgeable teachers. With this approach, young children through teens can see the viability and purpose of their study. This process adds rigor to academics because students are depended upon, as well as builds interdisciplinary understandings and deepens learning, all while improving the viability of the Common Core State Standards.

    At the heart of the Common Core State Standards are seven “Capacities for the Literate Individual,” a “portrait of students who meet the standards.” The aim is to develop students who:

    1. Demonstrate independence
    2. Build strong content knowledge
    3. Respond to varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline
    4. Comprehend as well as critique
    5. Value evidence
    6. Use technology and digital media strategically and capably
    7. Come to understand other perspectives and cultures

    This list and the specific standards outlined in Common Core State Standards provide an outline of what we want students to be able to do, however the how of the process is left to the educators—those who prepare and design the day-to-day programs and curriculum and greet learners as they arrive at this place called “school.” The choice is whether the classroom alone develops this kind of lifelong learner, or whether this is developed in a more authentic context for the application of the learning, whereby students recognize they already are people of value to society.

    Service learning has distinctive aspects that separate this pedagogy from what we often call “community service” or “project-based learning.” With high-quality service learning, students:

    • Increase academic rigor through relevance and application of content and skills
    • Participate in social analysis as they investigate an authentic community need, typically through action research using media, interviews, surveys, and observation
    • Take initiative, make plans, and follow through on their ideas
    • Engage in inquiry based problem solving
    • Use literature—fiction and nonfiction—to advance knowledge
    • Experience intrinsic growth rather than depend on extrinsic rewards
    • Find out about an array of career opportunities as they develop as social entrepreneurs
    • Make global connections to increase international-mindedness
    • Integrate cognitive and affective development as they develop an aptitude for becoming reflective
    • Apply acquired knowledge and skills in purposeful ways that benefit other people or the planet while showing evidence of learning

    This parallels many of the desired outcomes listed for the Common Core State Standards.

    The Complete Guide to Service Learning is used globally to assist in developing engaging teaching methods where students again and again exceed the Common Core State Standards. The process of the Five Stages of Service Learning provides a reliable and practical framework for inquiry, analysis, planning, interdisciplinary thinking, international mindedness, and application of knowledge and skills to meet authentic and verifiable needs. This well-established teaching pedagogy encourages curiosity and leads to discovery.

    In Chapter Two of The Complete Guide to Service Learning you will find numerous tools to improve inquiry, and research (through the action research approach), and documents to assist with all levels of planning and organization, all the while improving and strengthening the incremental 21st century skills necessary for learning and in life. Read more about these in Chapter 17: Building a Culture of Service. 

    Also, as you read The Complete Guide to Service Learning be sure to look at the Making Connections across the Curriculum documents in each of the thirteen thematic chapters; these have CCSS references. Also, as you download the many tools and documents accessible through the Free Spirit Publishing website that accompany the book, you will find 33 templates of lesson plans—an elementary, middle and high school examples— for each of the 13thematic chapters in the book. You will again notice recognizable standards for both content and skills.

    In my approach to service learning, you will also find in each thematic chapter a Service Learning Bookshelf to assist with the literacy development of students as they explore and learn about the topics.

    Can we integrate service learning as a resource for high-level engagement while meeting Common Core State Standards? Absolutely! The Complete Guide to Service Learning is your go-to resource.

    —Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.

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