One often thinks of service learning in learning environments of middle to high school age students and the traditional college student. Yet, it is not necessarily incorporated into the adult education learning environment. As Carden states, “Older adults are increasingly active themselves, serving as volunteers and helping to maintain many organizations struggling to meet pressing social needs. Seniors are mostly left out of structured service-learning opportunities.”
The objectives of service learning centers on bridging student learning experience and thought with action. It helps to prepare students for the future, and builds on self-esteem, self-confidence and civic/citizenship skills. Often times they can work on projects that revolve around societal injustices or fulfilling unmet needs in communities and organizations. Including adults learners in service learning is a benefit to both the organization or community they are working in, and for their own personal and professional growth. Adults can add an expertise in areas that have been built on through their many experiences.
The information from Carden’s Policy Report was dated in 2001, so it would be interesting to find more current data and summaries on how this applies to adult learners. One comment I found interesting was the questioning of “Why not service learning for elders?” with a response that there is are false conceptions that older adults have finished learning. With the growth of adult learning and online learning courses, I have to wonder has the conception changed. From what I have experienced, I have seen adults with a drive to learn and make a difference in their communities. Which happens to be the essence of service learning ~ learning while making a difference.
Carden, M. (2001) Policy Report: Service Learning and Older Adults. Center for Social Development and Global Service Institute. Washington University.