Service learning combines school-based instruction with social engagement. In the model project, students apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in scientific subjects and make an active contribution to their community.
Students in the fifth 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 the subject easier for students to understand. Social engagement also enables them to help others by applying their knowledge and skills.
Service-learning in STEM subjects is designed to encourage students to assume responsibility, develop a growing consciousness about the environment and consider sustainability, solidarity and social justices in their daily actions. After all, by directly focusing on the society-related values of the STEM subjects in a practical manner, students experience the purpose and meaning of natural science and technology to society. During the subsequent period of reflection, students can explore and discuss these experiences. As a result, they can reach conclusions about their own lifestyles and actively expand their set of values.
The model project "Service learning in STEM subjects"
Siemens Stiftung and the Freudenberg Foundation have conducted a model project in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt titled “Service-Learning in STEM Subjects”. The project is also being supported by the state's Education Ministry and the statewide network office for “Learning through Civic Engagement”, which is run by the Volunteering Agency Halle Saale district e.V. During the project, the form of instruction and learning known as Service-Learning – Learning through Civic Engagement from the Freudenberg Foundation, which has been used for years now, was tried in the STEM subjects. Additionally, instructional materials were developed for use in elementary and high schools throughout Germany.
The resulting German handout "Service-Learning in STEM Subjects" shows teachers how they can combine the content taught in STEM subjects with social engagement. Detailed practical information offers further support for the planning of their own service-learning project. Effective January 2017, the handout will be available with additional materials and can be downloaded free of charge at Siemens Stiftung's media portal. All media materials are available under the open license CC BY-SA 4.0.