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This study documents the evolution o fservice learning in America and the types of service learning. This case study examined the perception of 28 young, gifted adolescents involved in a Community Action service learning project toward their project, the effects of this involvement upon them, the impact of the project on the rural community, and the effects of the methodology that was used in the classroom from 1998-2000. The study examined this case in relation to an earlier pilot study by the researcher.

Data were gathered through focus group and individual interviews, observations, and a review of documents. The importance of service learning to the young, gifted participants in this study was highlighted in the following themes emerging from the data: methodology, attitudes, student development, empowerment, commitment, and effects of celebration.

The experiences from this project gave the students opportunities to grow academically, intellectually, personally, creatively, and socially. Through their participation in this Community Action service learning project, the students began to see outside the walls of their classroom into the community beyond. Civic awareness and responsibility were developed. Basic skills were propped up. while the students' sense of responsibility toward their community and each other developed. They learned how to creatively elicit ideas to improve their community.

This project had both a direct and an indirect impact on the community. Directly, it led to beautification of the downtown area and educated the community about its historic resources. Indirectly, it led to the community perceiving youth as a positive element in the community. It also affected student attitudes positively toward the community.

These findings point to the importance of methodology to service learning. In order to help gifted students perform to their maximum potential, a conscious effort to lead students toward self-learning and independence is needed. The study suggests that students must have opportunities to work cooperatively; to learn the skills of creative problem solving; to have ample, formal reflective activities; and to have opportunities for celebration. Implications for educators are discussed.


© 2000 Alice Wickersham Terry

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