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Learn & Serve Challenge Spotlights Students As Solutions to Community Problems

October 8th, 2008

From serving meals and cleaning rivers to tutoring and raising money for cancer research, students across the country will show how they make a difference through service-learning during the National Learn & Serve Challenge the week of October 6 through 12.

Joining under the banner of “Be a Solution,” more than 85,000 young people, educators, business leaders, and community partners nationwide will come together to spotlight the ways youth are translating what they learn in the classroom into action to improve their own lives and communities.

The National Learn & Serve Challenge is a concentrated week of activities designed to increase public understanding of service-learning, the federal Learn and Serve America program, and to inspire more communities to launch their own service-learning programs. Nearly 200 events are planned, ranging from service projects and community presentations to service-learning fairs and celebrations. Last month the U.S House passed a resolution recognizing the benefits of service learning and supporting the National Learn & Serve Challenge, and 14 governors or chief state school officers have issued proclamations.

Service-learning is a hands-on teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of academic work and other out-of-school time activities. Research has demonstrated that service-learning increases academic achievement and student engagement, improves civic attitudes and community involvement, and decreases risky behaviors.

“We know that students who become involved in their communities through organized, intentional service-learning activities experience a range of benefits, from improved academic achievement to the development of a lifelong ethic of civic involvement,” said David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees Learn and Serve America. “By shining a spotlight on the great results that these programs have, we hope to inspire more schools and universities to embrace this powerful and proven teaching method.”

Nelda Brown, executive director of the National Service-Learning Partnership, commented, “Every day in schools and communities nationwide, young people are daring to make a difference by using the knowledge and skills they learn in school and community-based programs to help solve important community problems. And while serving others, they learn for themselves.”

Learn and Serve America is the nation’s largest source of support for service-learning. Last year the program supported 1,700 grantees across the country that engaged more than 1.4 million students who served 27.9 million hours with more than 124,000 community partners. The Corporation for National and Community Service also supports service-learning through its other core programs and special initiatives, including the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse training and curriculum website, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll that recognizes outstanding colleges for their service commitments, and the Bring Learning to Life television PSA campaign.

The Challenge supports the federal goal to engage 5 million college students serving and ensure that 50 percent of America’s K-12 schools incorporate service-learning into their curricula by 2010. For more information and to find local Challenge events and activities, visit:

The Learn & Serve Challenge is a signature event of the National Service-Learning Partnership, made possible with support from the State Farm® Companies Foundation. Lead Organizing Partners include: SEANet - the State Education Agency K-12 Service-Learning Network, America's Promise Alliance, Camp Fire USA, Campus Compact, the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, National Youth Leadership Council, and Youth Service America.

For a list of activities during the week, visit

Among the events are:

University of Maine at Farmington: Environmental sustainability is part of the mission statement for University of Maine at Farmington. Pre-service teachers are doing a service-learning project that focuses on sustainability. They work with the Department of Environmental Protection and Agriculture in the Schools Consortium. With the information and activities that students receive from these partners and their own creativity, they develop lessons and activities to share in the local elementary and middle schools. The visit to the elementary and middle school classrooms is followed by students providing a guided tour of the LEEDS Certified Education Center.

St. John the Baptist Elementary (St. Louis, MO): In October students will begin a year-long partnership with the naturalists at Forest Park Forever to restore an area to native prairie grasses. Students are planting and weeding as they learn about native prairie grasses and their impact on the environment. In addition, students are participating in a pollination study where they gather data on the different kinds of pollinators, particularly bees, in this restored prairie area.

State Farm - Austin, Texas Operations Center: State Farm is hosting two Learn & Serve Challenge week events: An employee Lunch & Learn workshop to teach employees what service-learning is and how to apply for service-learning grants. The is also an exhibit style event showcasing service-learning winners and participants from local schools for employees to see and learn from as well as announce new grant winners.

Annual Convening of Service-Learning Leaders (Baltimore, MD): At the invitation of state school superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, local service-learning leaders, including central office staff and teachers, are meeting for the Annual Convening of Service-Learning Leaders to explore and share new and effective strategies for service-learning implementation. Maryland requires public school students to engage in service-learning as a condition of graduation.

Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA): Gonzaga University students will participate in the October 4th Annual Spokane River Clean-up. They will be picking up trash on a section of the river adjacent to campus. Over 500 Spokane citizens help with the Clean-up every year. Staff and some student volunteers will act as group leaders during this event. During the week that follows, we will offer Gonzaga student volunteers an opportunity to reflect on their experience and tie it back to the University's selected theme of the year "Water."

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year, the Corporation engages four million Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit