Press releases | Education 02.03.2015

Service learning in STEM subjects: Combining classroom learning with civic engagement

Franziska Nagy (Freudenberg Foundation) explains the next steps of „Service learning in STEM subjects”, a joint model project of Siemens Stiftung and Freudenberg Foundation.

Siemens Stiftung and the Freudenberg Foundation are launching a model project titled “Service learning in STEM subjects.” The project will collaborate with the education ministry in the state of Saxony-Anhalt and the region's service learning network office, which is run by the Volunteering Agency Halle Saale district e.V. The partners aim to show how the content taught in STEM subjects can go hand in hand with social engagement. The project is one of the first of its kind in terms of the content and methods used. Representatives from politics, academia and education were attending the kick-off event in Magdeburg on February 27, 2015, where the partners detailed their collaboration in an agreement.

Siemens Stiftung and the Freudenberg Foundation champion discovery-, action- and value-based learning in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). They aim to motivate students to take responsibility, develop greater environmental awareness and make sustainability, solidarity and social justice an important dimension of their work. To realize this objective, the two foundations have linked their programs – Siemens Stiftung's science and technology education program “Experimento” and the Freudenberg Foundation's “Service Learning – Learning through Civic Engagement” – and developed the “Service learning in STEM subjects” model project.

A model project shows the way

In the model project, students find practical applications for the knowledge and skills they have learned in science subjects and make an active contribution to their community. Students in the 5th grade, for example, explore nutrients and the composition of food in biology lessons and develop an educational game for younger children with tips for healthy eating. They then use this to campaign in local elementary schools for a healthy school breakfast. Practically applying the theory learned in lessons makes it easier for the students to understand. Social engagement also enables them to help others with their knowledge and skills.

The model project is to be implemented by teachers from elementary and secondary schools in Saxony-Anhalt, who will receive prior training through the educational programs of the two foundations. “Experimento” provides a selection of practical, varied and curriculum-oriented experiments in the areas of energy, the environment and health, as well as the knowledge and instructions teachers need to integrate these into their lessons. The teachers will also be introduced to the Freudenberg Foundation's “Service Learning – Learning through Civic Engagement” program. Service learning combines school lessons with a commitment to society as whole. Students' contribution to the common good forms part of teaching and learning. Rather than being detached from school altogether, this civic engagement therefore becomes closely integrated with the subject knowledge students have gained.

Once trained in these two educational programs, the teachers will put service learning to the test, for example in general studies, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. Teachers' practical experiences in implementing these teaching and learning methods will then be used to help develop teaching materials. This will enable other teachers to benefit from the results of the project.