What is Service Learning?
Service learning is a form of experiential learning where students undertake activities and actions that tackle real-life problems in their community. Getting involved in activities that shed light on important issues such as global sustainability provides students with unique learning experiences that forces them to pragmatically reflect upon how we can help mitigate the real world problems of today.
Research indicates that service learning is extremely beneficial to a students’ education. A study conducted by Eyler, Janet, Dwight & Braxton (1997) collected data from 1500 students across 20 colleges and universities, and findings indicated that students who combined service learning with their academic study saw increases in their skills, values, and understanding of social issues. More recently, a study conducted in 2018 surveyed students to assess the usefulness of service learning projects in their lives, with results indicating that the students had expressed a higher level of competency in knowledge and activities that involved sustainability (Molderez & Fonseca, 2018).
Service learning experiences in a completely different continent, such as Asia, can also be beneficial for students to engage in cross-cultural issues and enhance their cultural awareness, with research also recommending students to participate in educational school trips to Asia (Davis, Chan, Ong, Koh, Yap, Goh & Vidyarthi, 2021).
This article will discuss how students situated in China can experience meaningful school trips by taking part in community service projects that are available across the country. This article will also cover the different types of sustainability workshops in China for students who are keen on getting involved in China community service projects. Our community service projects for students in China are responsible for teaching UNSDG in China, and overall providing students with a better comprehensive understanding of what is required to conserve our planet.
Service Learning in China
So why should students across the world be interested in taking a service learning trip to China? Community service projects for students in China differ in scale and scope compared to other countries with less resources at their disposal. Given the country’s sheer geographical size and economic power, China plays a significant role in leading the world in sustainable development through enacting eco-friendly policies that encourage renewable energy (World Economic Forum, 2019) and executing strategies such as China’s rural revitalization project that aims to improve rural productivity and agricultural supply (Xinhua, 2021).
Moreover, getting involved in community service projects in China enables students to deeply immerse and expose themselves to parts of China’s multi-dimensional culture that is not well known amongst people’s general understanding of China. In many ways, service learning trips in China can act as a way of building bridges of inclusion, particularly in promoting healthy cross-cultural collaborations to achieve a common goal. The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has alarmed nations to pay closer attention to global sustainability. This change in mindset can also be seen in China, with people increasingly engaging in activities that help promote this global cause.
Community Service Projects in China
Students can take part in a range of community services projects in China that focus on sustainability. For example, building community infrastructures is extremely impactful for senior citizens in rural areas of China. Li, Zhong, Zhu, Ramsay, Li & Coyte’s (2018) study on the impact of community living infrastructure highlighted that building infrastructures such as sewage systems, cement roads, and centralized garbage disposal were amongst many requirements that are essential towards establishing rural day care centers for seniors.
Nature conservation is extremely important in China, given the country’s vast wildlife and landscapes. The giant panda is regarded as one of the most powerful symbols in the world regarding species conservation. China’s conservation efforts, such as the reforestation of the Xiaozhaizigou area in Sichuan province, and the preservation of wildlife by local communities, have collectively helped achieve China’s goal of downgrading pandas from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ after seeing a 17% rise in the panda population (WWF, 2016).
WildChina organized a service learning trip in Tacheng, Yunnan in which students visited the Tacheng nature Reserve to see the endangered golden monkey species for the first time in person. This trip encouraged students to reflect upon how their actions can either positively or negatively contribute to the conservation of precious wildlife and ecosystems.
Community service projects for students in China that involve the implementation and study of renewable energy sources such as solar energy and wind turbines are beneficial towards bettering a students’ understanding of resources that are environmentally friendly. For example, a middle school in Beijing benefitted from a project in which solar panels were installed on the rooftop of school buildings, which reduced the consumption of fossil fuels and the school’s electricity bill. Students were involved in science education activities that tasked them to learn more about solar energy (The World bank, 2014).
As mentioned prior, service learning trips in China can also comprise of students engaging in community learning activities that promote language, cultural exchange and understanding. This can range from school exchange programs with local primary school students, to taking part in local activities such as catching fish in a rice paddy or growing vegetables.
WildChina Education – Service Learning Program SOP
Policy and Practices
From mingling with the local traditions of the Miao people in Guizhou, to cleaning sea turtle stations in Sanya, WildChina offers a number of sustainability workshops and meaningful school trips in China. WildChina is foremost dedicated to providing students with a service learning experience that is both fun, safe, and educational, and encourages students to participate in activities that are in partnership with local communities. While doing so, WildChina maintains that all ethical issues and potential risks are carefully considered and solved before a service learning trip is established.
WildChina upholds that all of our service projects are finalized via an equal partnership between WildChina and local community leaders/organizations. Students will learn directly from local community leaders, and all final celebrations of accomplishments are jointly celebrated with the local community and all other participants of the project.
All our projects are extremely transparent with community partners and service participants that their personal information such as names, ages, professions, and degree of participation may be included in post-trip reflections (including but not limited to class presentations and writing assignments). Moreover, we encourage those involved in our service learning trips to provide feedback, so we can strive to better improve the overall learning experience.
WildChina ensures that service learning trips and community workshops are executed via fair and equal partnerships with local communities, with mutual long-term goals in mind. While donations to specific causes are not required, donations can be made to organizations and entities separate from WildChina, unless otherwise specified. In this case, WildChina holds all financial records available to all parties involved.
WildChina’s Safety Procedures
All of WildChina’s service learning trips and community service projects have passed the pre-project and safety measures (found below), as well as the Fair-Trade Learning Rubric (available upon request).
- Does the service experience utilize a partnership approach?
- Does the service program work hand and hand with a wide range of leaders in the Community?
- Are visiting volunteers taking away from local peoples’ opportunities?
- Do multiple community members and WildChina program leaders share the same long-term goals?
- What impact does the service experience have on the local community?
- Does the service experience avoid the distribution of free services or products, when doing so would disrupt local business or employee opportunities?
- Are vulnerable populations (such as children, elderly, people with disabilities etc) clearly protected through appropriate safeguards and relevant training for all individuals involved in the partnership?
- Does the service experience last long enough that the benefits of direct volunteer interactions in the community will outweigh the stress of volunteer turnover?
- Are volunteers trained in appropriate use of social media such that community members’ dignity, privacy and consent are preserved?
- Does the program avoid representing volunteers a saviors or heroes?
- Do recruitment and other outreach materials serve an educational function shaping expectations for community-driven partnership-based engagement?
- Does it reflect a “white savior dynamic” instead of showing the dignity of people in the host communities partnering with outsiders to learn together?
- Do all the partners in the service experience have access to information regarding financial commitments and disbursements that support the partnership?
- Does the organization prioritize volunteering over the travel experience and tourism?
- Does the volunteer trip allow or tolerate unlicensed professional practice by Volunteers?
- Does the trip keep the welfare of the community and its members as a priority over the experience of the volunteer?
- Does the trip provide appropriate training for volunteers’ supportive efforts?
- Does the trip consider the challenges of language and cultural barriers to provide effective service?
- Does the trip support orphanages without working directly with the children?
- Does the project involve a risk that comes with discriminatory practices or illegal actions from the community?
1) Are participants likely to be physically socially, or emotionally harmed?
Only an answer of “No” is acceptable
2) On a scale of 1-10, how much will participants be embarrassed or made to feel uncomfortable?
Any number above 6, is unacceptable
3) How could harm come to agency/organization or the faculty or institution? On a scale of 1-10, what is the likelihood of this happening?
Any number above 6, is unacceptable
Service learning trips and community service projects can be a great introduction to real-world issues that students will inevitably deal with in their adulthood. One day, my high school arranged for me and my classmates to visit a local Landfill site for the day and learn about the importance of recycling. It was only until I had set my eyes upon the mountains of pungent rubbish piled on top of each other, did I realize how people (including myself) were contributing to the pollution of our planet. After that experience, I became more mindful of not wasting resources unnecessarily, and more conscious of which bin to correctly place my trash.
WildChina offers students memorable and valuable experiences that work with local community leaders and organizations across China to increase cultural awareness, encourage cross-cultural collaboration, and improve upon skills that contribute to sustaining our environment.
Davis, C., Chan, B. Y. L., Ong, A. S. Z., Koh, Y., Yap, A. F. H. W., Goh, S. H., & Vidyarthi, A. R. (2021). An evaluation of a medical student international service-learning experience in Southeast Asia. Education for Health, 34(1), 3.
Eyler, J., Giles Jr, D. E., & Braxton, J. (1997). The impact of service-learning on college students. Michigan journal of community service learning, 4, 5-15.
Li, M., Zhong, R., Zhu, S., Ramsay, L., Li, F., & Coyte, P. (2018). Access to Community Living Infrastructure and Its Impact on the Establishment of Community-Based Day Care Centres for Seniors in Rural China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(6), 1184. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15061184
Molderez, I., & Fonseca, E. (2018). The efficacy of real-world experiences and service learning for fostering competences for sustainable development in higher education. Journal of cleaner production, 172, 4397-4410.
The World Bank (2014). China: Solar Schools to Help Build Green Cities. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/09/30/solar-schools-to-help-build-green-cities
World Economic Forum. (2019). How is China showing the rest of the world how sustainable development is done? https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/09/china-leading-sustainable-development/
World Wildlife Fund. (2016). Giant panda no longer Endangered. https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/giant-panda-no-longer-endangered
Xinhua. (2021). Backgrounder: China’s rural vitalization strategy http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-02/22/c_139759111.htm