Perry Service Learning (PSL) is an interdisciplinary elective for seniors that combined English and Social Studies curricula with meaningful hands-on service at a community agency. Unlike traditional community service programs and service clubs that focus on charitable acts to address problems, PSL strives to help students develop democratic values by working for justice, becoming advocates, and affecting change. The course was carefully designed based on how students learn, how they think, the nature of experience, and how to educate for active participation in democratic life.
Students meet three days a week in a face-to-face setting to explore units on poverty, education reform, immigration, environmental issues, and special education. The other two days, students are required to volunteer 2-4 hours per week with a community agency that will provide them with real world experiences that relate to the topics studied in class. Ultimately, the language arts and social issues curricula combined with meaningful service provides students with the tools they need to become engaged citizens. These students recognize the needs of their community and can identify the assets that exist to address those needs. Moreover, students understand that citizens in a democracy must be active and informed or the democracy may cease to exist.