Service Learning – What’s it all About?

What is Service Learning?

Service is a core value of Lutheran Education, involving selfless giving and making a difference in the lives of others by identifying and responding to their genuine needs. [1]
Christian Service can be simply expressed as ‘faith, active in love’. It is both a response to God’s love for us and part of our expression of humanity, acting for the sake of justice for all. Learning about serving and learning through service is known as Service Learning.[2] It is embedded in the curriculum, meets real needs in the community and forms reciprocal partnerships with others locally and globally. Service Learning is justice-oriented rather than charity-oriented and working alongside or ‘with’ those we serve, rather than ‘for’ or ‘on’ them.

At St Peters, Service Learning is embedded as part of the Primary Years Program, where students are ‘called to action’ in their Units of Inquiry. The Year 6 Exhibition is a good example of students engaging with real issues in an authentic, meaningful and often life-changing way. The IB Diploma Program in Years 11 and 12 also encourages Service Learning through CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service). In Christian Studies, students engage in a Service Learning unit in Year 9. Students also have multiple opportunities through lunchtime student groups to engage in service and partner at a deeper level to meet the needs of the community. Our aim, over time, is to bring Service Learning to the forefront by embedding it within the teaching and learning program across all year levels so that students of all ages understand and apply the concepts of Service Learning: Innate Dignity, Boundary Crossing, Come as Guest, Presence, Story, Stewardship and Community.

Why is it Important?

We live in a complex world grappling with a multitude of deep issues and challenges. This is the world our young people live in; it is their reality. No longer are we preparing students for the future. They are living in a community right now, and so their education needs to equip and enable them to engage in and contribute meaningfully to their communities in all their richness and complexity.

Service Learning exposes students to the nature and complexity of needs in communities, encourages them to see the innate dignity in all people, empowers them to take a stand and seek justice through love, and develops citizenship, good character, and a range of skills in communication, critical thinking and problem-solving. Ultimately, Service Learning summons students into a space of deep learning and reflection and calls them to claim their personal agency and make a difference.[3]

Service Learning and Holistic Education – the Perfect Fit

At St Peters, we promote an enriching, holistic education for our students, challenging and nurturing the spiritual, academic, physical, emotional and social character of each student. We offer a holistic education because we believe that who our young people are becoming is more important than any accumulation of facts, figures and skills. We approach education in a way that enables our young people to connect their learning to the problems in the world and the communities they live in, so that they are empowered to lead, serve and make a difference. Service Learning is an “other-centred encounter”, both reciprocal and respectful. “Ultimately in the service encounter you come as a guest to the sacred space and story of the other, you choose to be deeply present, and you allow your heart to open in compassion”. [4]

David Orr wrote in Earth in Mind, “The world does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places”. [5] Service Learning is one avenue that helps the fine young people of St Peters to do just that.

Renata Rankin
Director of Identity, Formation and Service

[1] Lutheran Education Australia, A Vision for Learners and Learning in Lutheran Schools (North Adelaide, South Australia: LEA, 2013), 14.
[2] Lutheran Education Australia, “What is Service Learning?” LEA, 2024,
[3] Damien Price, Educator’s Guide to Service Learning – Service Learning, Experiential Learning and Whole-School Transformation (Mulgrave, Victoria: Garratt Publishing, 2021), 48.
[4] Damien Price, Educator’s Guide to Service Learning – Service Learning, Experiential Learning and Whole-School Transformation
(Mulgrave, Victoria: Garratt Publishing, 2021), 6.
[5] David Orr, Earth in Mind: on Education, Environment and the Human Prospect (Washington DC: Island Press, 2004), in Tom Christenson, Who Needs a Lutheran College? Values, Vision Vocation (Minneapolis, MN: Lutheran University Press, 2011), 60.