Other Youth Topics

Differences from Community Service

Traditionally, the number of schools that engaged students in community service was greater than the number of schools that offered service-learning as part of their curriculum. Consistently, about two-thirds of the public schools in the United States recognized or arranged community service, but only one-third of the schools offered service-learning.1 Although service-learning and civic engagement can be related, they are not the same thing.2 Service-learning differs from community service and volunteering in two distinct ways:

  • The service activity is a form of experiential learning that is integrated with academic curriculum and content.
  • Students engage in reflection activities after their service experience and apply their learning in real-life activities.3

Results from the Youth Volunteering and Civic Engagement Survey4 found that students who reported that they participated or were participating in service-learning were more likely to engage in activities that promote civic engagement. Compared with peers who did not participate in service-learning, service-learning participants were

  • 71 percent more likely to report that they will volunteer in the upcoming year;
  • 62 percent more likely to be interested in world events;
  • more likely to talk about politics with friends and family; and
  • more likely to believe they can make a difference in their community.


1Skinner & Chapman, 1999; Spring et al., 2009
2American Psychological Association, 2010
3College of Southern Maryland, 2010
4Corporation for National and Community Service, 2006