For Educators

Service Learning: Gaining Knowledge Through Giving – Background


Many factors motivate people to “do good” for others or to rally behind a cause. Service, such as volunteering, is common and considered valuable to all involved. Such service also raises philosophical questions. Is “doing good” a personal choice or does it emerge from a moral, spiritual, or civic responsibility? What drives altruism? Does altruism always drive service? Beyond a sense of fulfillment, what does service bring to the “doer”? What does service teach?

In this lesson, students explore service from a personal perspective, as well as through the eyes of those who are committed to assisting others. Students move from examining service motivators to service learning, linking “altruistic” engagement with academics.

Grade Level:

Grades 6 – 8 or 9 – 12

Time Allotment:

Time frames accompany each activity.

Subject Matter:

Civics, Behavioral Studies

Learning Objectives

As a result of completing the lesson, the students will:

  • identify and describe the motivators that fuel people’s service to others, to institutions, to causes, to community, etc.
  • build connections between their understanding of service and service learning
  • assess a range of service options, from individual volunteer efforts on the part of students to school-based community service projects performed by either students or groups, to gauge their service-learning potential
  • design (and perhaps implement) a service learning project


Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
Level III (Grades 6-8) and Level IV (Grades 9-12)

Behavioral Studies

    Standard 3: Understands that interactions among learning, inheritance, and physical development affect human behavior.


    Standard 27: Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens’ abilities to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities.

This lesson was prepared by: Michele Israel