10 cool tips to make the most out of your service-learning experience


By Esther Riddle

Do you want your service-learning visit to be a memorable one? We have found that when travelers PREPARE activities ON THEIR OWN, the visit goes much smoother and is far more successful.

If your group is willing to serve for one full day or for several days and can supply some materials, we’d love to create a full service-learning project. However, not every group has that much time in their itinerary. Plus, not every local school and/or facility that we visit needs a specific type of service such as painting, gardening, cleaning, or stocking shelves.

Often times, what goes a long way in the minds and hearts of both students and those that they are serving is quality PEOPLE to PEOPLE time and exchange of ideas. Challenge students to connect with 2-3 people individually and think about what they could say to encourage or invest in their lives.

The students that we tend to serve are from underprivileged low-income communities. Many of them have never traveled abroad. However, that doesn’t stop them from being curious and from wanting to expand their knowledge of the world and of different cultures.

Here are 10 great service suggestions for teachers and students:

  1. POWER POINT PRESENTATION – Encourage students to put together a power point presentation about their school, their country, culture, or about a favorite sport. They may also want to bring out how they celebrate holidays, what they do on weekends, their favorite foods, etc. Let them be creative!
  2. ICE BREAKER GAMES – Come with an “ice breaker” game so students can get to know each other! You can find many ideas for these online.
  3. SHORT PLAY– Come prepared to act out a short play. Once again, give your students the liberty to get creative.
  4. SONGS / DANCE – Share a song or dance with those that you are visiting. It could be in their language or yours…or both!
  5. PEN PALS – When visiting, encourage the students to swap their contact information or social media pages so they can build lasting friendships.
  6. BOOKS – Each of your students can donate and read an age appropriate book to a student they visit. Have them write their well wishes in the flyleaf!
  7. HOBBIES – Encourage your students to introduce themselves and talk about their hobbies. They are welcome to bring along pictures!
  8. CRAFTING – If you’d like, bring along supplies to do a craft together. Be sure the activity is age appropriate and the supplies will be allowed on the plane.
  9. LOCAL TREATS – Have your students bring along a treat that is special to their hometown or state to share. For example, hot pepper jam is unique to Lancaster County, PA. It’s something that not too many of the kids there have sampled to be sure!
  10. SPORTS – Participate in local sports and recreational activities with students such as playing soccer, volleyball, jump rope, playing cards, etc. Introduce locals to a sport they’ve probably never played before.