The Environmental Service-Learning Project: Are Environmental Education and Service-Learning a Natural Fit?

Madigan, Patty

The Research

This National Service Fellowship research examined the emerging practice of environmental service-learning with youth, a field significantly enhanced through community partnerships with AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America, in the national service network. More than 100 programs were surveyed, interviews were conducted with twenty program directors and service-learning coordinators, and site visits and field interviews included community partners, teachers, program directors, national service participants, and students--in two corps-based and two university-based--environmental service-learning partnerships.

The Findings

Five promising practices for environmental service-learning partnerships, as well as some strategies for sustaining these partnerships beyond national service funding are offered. A framework for program sustainability was developed for practitioners to use or adapt as a planning tool. Using this framework, four case studies appear as profiles to show where partnerships are in alignment with their purpose and community partners, and where they could create a balance with respect to the five promising practices.

What It Means to You

Harold Ward (1999) called environmental studies and service-learning in higher education a natural fit. For youth and community to "fit" with service and environment, partnerships need to examine the benefits and challenges of working with schools--and understand the role of service-learning in school reform--or partner with community-based organizations to engage youth during out of school time.

Finding the right "fit" is critical to program success and sustainability. To help guide practitioners, program officers, evaluators, and grant-makers toward more appropriate support for environmental service-learning, a sample planning framework and an annotated bibliography of environmental service-learning and related resources appear in the appendices.


Pedagogical Area
  • service learning
Delivery Area
  • on site day programs (nature center, farm, etc.)
  • community education
Outcome Area
  • career awareness
  • community change
Participant Area
  • program
  • organization
  • community
Age Area
  • high school (14-18 years old)
  • undergraduate