Service Learning in the Time of COVID-19


Innovation of students in Service Learning during a pandemic seems like a daunting and impossible task.

How can we make meaningful projects (many already planned) when we cannot leave our houses and visit organizations, hospitals, homes, etc.?

Despite all obstacles placed in their way, one of our ISPS Service Learning classes found an opportunity to meet the current challenge at hand. It involved creativity, innovativeness and determination on the part of the students and project leaders.

Under the supervision of their Service Learning leaders, Pandemic Difference Makers (PDM), learned to prepare hand sanitizers in the lab while practicing social distancing, and began distribution to places in need, such as Children's Homes and Senior Citizen Homes.  PDM learned of the work by another Service Learning Class, Juvenile Prisoner Fundraising Effort (JPFE), assisting the prisons with supplies and the two paired up to provide the sanitizers and care packages for the prisoners. See article below: 

   International School Students Raise Funds for Needy in Prison   


What is Service Learning? 

Service Learning is a methodology that connects students’ interests with identified community issues and needs. Service Learning engages students in projects that serve the community and build their social and academic capacities. 

Goals of Service Learning

  • To integrate Service Learning projects into the school’s programs.

  • To have students obtain a better understanding of their learning through real life experiences.

  • To involve students actively in the Service Learning process: planning and preparation, implementing a project and reflecting.

  • To develop character and citizenship skills.


How is Service Learning different from Community Service?

  • Students giving or ‘volunteering’ their time to provide aid to the community that improves the quality of life for those living in the community. Students get involved in helping their community..

  • Community service could include many activities such as helping the disabled or aged, teaching younger children, volunteering at an animal rescue, cleaning up litter at the beach or community nature spot, helping at a soup kitchen, and many more activities.

  • Community service assists the community, teaches scholars about giving to the less fortunate, and helps to teach learners about compassion, commitment and empathy.

  • Service Learning takes  Community Service to a far deeper level

  •  It involves a specific need in the community with learning objectives and goal/s, and a practical, community-based activity to help teach the academic goal through application with the community. 

  • It also involves self-assessment, and reflection before, during and after the practical activity has been completed.

Stages of Service learning

  • Investigating/ Planning (Find a need in your community)

  • Action

  • Reflection (before, during and after)

  • Demonstrate ( share with others what you accomplished)


Types of Service Learning

  • Direct (personal contact with those being served. Visiting homes, hospitals etc)

  • Indirect ( channeling funds or goods to those being served ( Food drives for hurricane victims etc)

  • Civic/ Advocacy (working to alleviate or eliminate societal problems by informing the public and creating awareness about the problem) 

Recommendations for Service Learning During a Pandemic 

  • Shift from direct service-learning projects to  indirect, research-based, or advocacy-based service projects 

  • Be direct service projects that are designed to be contactless, remote, and/or virtual.

  • Use the pandemic as an  opportunity to rethink how we can adapt our service- learning projects to address current and more  pressing issues in society. How has  COVID-19 impacted our communities and how can we help those most affected by it?  With challenge comes opportunity. 

  • Do not underestimate the power of Service learning for students during a pandemic. If anything, it feeds their innovativeness. They now have to stop, rethink and find alternate means of reaching out to community members. See link to examples of projects that are reflective of the innovativeness and creativity of students ( created by students of The International School of Port of Spain during 2020/2021)

HS Service Learning Projects Overview

Virtual Volunteer Testimonials

Students of the International School of Port of Spain were asked at the end of a year of online Service Learning for their thoughts.

  • Starting something completely new from scratch in unprecedented times is hard. We as a group were able to push through regardless of any difficulty we faced.           

    • “This past year this pandemic was extremely hard for some less fortunate people. We decided to help out our community with what we knew could help people's safety” 

  • Although this year was filled with unforeseen circumstances, we were still able to give our best effort at helping others.

    • This year has definitely been tumultuous but we are happy that we have overcome such circumstances and were able to make such a major difference with the kids. It was definitely worth all of our hard work. Really enjoyed it. 

  • Throughout this year we discovered that you will truly never know about the toughness of jail conditions. “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails” . We must ensure prisoners' rights are upheld too. Prisoners are people too.

Maeve O'Donovan
Assistant Principal


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