News | Education 21.03.2016

First practical projects for "Service learning in STEM subjects"

service learning firefighters
Students learn about fire protection from volunteer firefighters and then share their knowledge with refugee children.

At the 107th German Math and Natural Sciences Congress (MNU) scheduled for March 20-24 in Leipzig, the Siemens Stiftung and the Freudenberg Foundation will present Service Learning – Learning through Civic Engagement for use in teaching STEM subjects. Service learning combines the learning of a topic with social engagement by students.

Since the beginning of the year, nine elementary and secondary schools in the German states of Saxony-Anhalt, Berlin and Bavaria have been conducting the model project "Service Learning in STEM Subjects". The eighth graders at the Ulrich von Hutten Comprehensive School in Halle have been learning about the principles of thermodynamics and methods to produce and use energy during their physics and technology classes. They are now working with a local building association to develop an energy transition concept for the neighboring Luther residential area. In an elementary school in Riestedt, pupils have learned about the meaning of the combustion triangle and about fire protection and are now sharing their knowledge with refugee children in cooperation with local firefighters.

These are just two examples of the ways that students are practically applying the knowledge they have acquired in the classroom and their own abilities to play an active role in their communities – the fundamental principle of Service Learning – Learning through Civic Engagement. The related model project initiated by the Siemens Stiftung and the Freudenberg Foundation is designed to strengthen values education in STEM courses. This proves to be most successful when knowledge learned in the classroom is combined with social engagement. As a result, students experience such values as sense of responsibility, sustainability and solidarity in real situations, grasp the social relevance of the knowledge they have acquired in the classroom, and actively think about their values during periods of reflection at school.

For this purpose, both foundations have integrated their programs – the science and technology education program Experimento of the Siemens Stiftung and Service Learning – Learning through Civic Engagement of the Freudenberg Foundation. Seventeen teachers have received qualifications and the concepts have been integrated into the instruction they provide. Students are now in the middle of the practical phase. Through the end of the year, success factors will be developed and defined. In addition, instructional material designed to promote this form of teaching and learning across Germany will be conceived.

The project launched in March 2015 is being carried out in cooperation with the Education Ministry of Saxony-Anhalt and the statewide network office "Learning through Civic Engagement" of the Volunteering Agency Halle Saale district e.V.