Literature Review:

Our beliefs about the power of connection and actions that build it are backed by strong scientific evidence. Here are some examples:

Particularly when learners recognize social constructs that create inequalities and take responsibility for engaging communities and making change in ways that promote social justice (Mitchell 2008)
Particularly when teachers/advisors consider their own attitudes and behaviors in order to model respectful and empowering community engagement (e.g., avoiding "impersonal charity") (65) (Tilley-Lubbs 2009)
Things it can do:
  • Build self-esteem and self-efficacy (Conrad and Hedin 1991) (Shumer 1997) (Shumer 2005), which help for dealing with depression, anxiety, and stress (Kim and Morgül 2017)
    • Generate social connections that reduce a sense of isolation (Kim and Morgül 2017)
      • Improve grades and attitudes about school (Conway et al. 2009) (Celio et al. 2011)
        • Lead to increased years of school and job earnings (even after controlling for family factors and comparing siblings, for both voluntary and involuntary service) (Kim and Morgül 2017)
          • Provide opportunities to feel impactful by doing something important for the world (Lakin and Mahoney 2006)
            • Improve interpersonal relationships, sense of community, empathy (Yates and Youniss 1996)
              • Foster a sense of empowerment, team spirit, and community (Lakin and Mahoney 2006)
                • Increase empathy scores and intentions to do more service in the future (Lakin and Mahoney 2006)
                  • Provide opportunities to test out job possibilities and develop attitudes and skills with general application (Dymond et al. 2008)
                    • Reduce stereotypes (e.g., anti-fat attitudes) (Rukavina et al. 2008)
                      • Provide opportunities for special and general education teachers to collaborate (e.g., on service-learning projects) and meet diverse student needs (Carter and Swedeen 2012) (Miller 2013)
                        • Lead to improved social relationships, including between general and special education learners collaborating on service-learning projects (Bonati 2018)
                          • Lead to increased civic engagement in adulthood, particularly when students tackle real-world problems and work with diverse community members (Ferreira et al 2012)
                          A short walk by students in a natural setting can reduce stress and heart rate (Song et al 2016)
                          Engaging in "forest therapy" was associated with significantly lower "chronic widespread pain and depression" among adults (Han et al 2016)
                          Children with lower exposure to natural outdoor environments had lower mental health as adults compared to children with greater exposure (Preuß M et al. 2019)
                          • Had higher incidences of psychiatric disorders (Engemann et al. 2019)
                          • Areas in which children had lower exposure were associated with "disease clusters" (especially depression) (Maas et al. 2009)

                          Children with higher exposure to natural outdoor environments had less incidence of mental disorders as adults (Bezold et al. 2018)
                          • Had improved cognitive development compared to those with lower exposure (Dadvand et al. 2015) as well as higher amounts of white and grey matter (Dadvand et al. 2018)
                          Risk of fighting and bullying were both inversely associated with family support (Šmigelskas et al. 2018)
                          Bullying was inversely associated with family and "school-related support" (from teachers and classmates) (Šmigelskas et al. 2018)
                          • "Having friends is a protective factor" by promoting "a climate in which peers will intervene." (Šmigelskas et al. 2018)
                          "Civic engagement is instrumental to democracy, and its forms should be adapted to changes in society" (Checkoway and Aldana 2013)
                          Grassroots organizing, citizen participation, intergroup dialogue, and sociopolitical development are all important and have applications depending on population (Checkoway and Aldana 2013)
                          Sense of belonging in school contributes to civic engagement in adulthood (Duke and Skay 2009) (Flanagan et al. 2007)
                          Opportunities for interpersonal interaction and growth are associated with more satisfying experiences among homeless and at-risk youth (Heinze et al. 2010)
                          Can increase resiliency for at-risk learners by focusing on learning processes for tasks (Mirza and Arif 2018)
                          Can build information literacy skills, thinking skills, and motivation (Orevi and Danon 1999)
                          Can improve critical thinking skills and self-confidence (Shepherd 1998)
                          Can reduce student stress by focusing on improvement vs. comparing them to others (Frank and Barzilai 2004)
                          Links can be to academic or vocational curricula (Dymond et al. 2008)
                          Reflecting on a service experience is a proven way to connect ideas, while lack of it could make a program detrimental (Blyth and Saito et al. 1997)
                          Reflecting on service experiences and having support in identifying, processing, and internalizing moral values is associated with continued engagement into adulthood (Ferreira et al 2012) (Malin et al 2017)
                          Linking to curricula improves identity formation and increases learning engagement more than if unlinked (Leming 2001) (McLellan and Youniss 2003)
                          Active learning can increase retention, depth of understanding, and the ability to create (Anderson and Krathwohl Eds. 2001)
                          Longer projects with more student hours (e.g., 40+) tend to be more impactful (Billig 2006)
                          It's crucial to balance giving students agency (vs. intervening to make something look better to outsiders) (Lakin and Mahoney 2006) and providing support and feedback (Polman and Pea 1997)
                          Anderson L, Krathwohl D. Eds. 2001. A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives: Complete edition, New York : Longman, pp. 67–68.
                          Bezold C, Banay R. 2018. The relationship between surrounding greenness in childhood and adolescence and depressive symptoms in adolescence and early adulthood. Ann. Epidemiol. 28, 213–219.
                          Billig S. 2006. The impact of service-learning on high school students' civic and academic engagement. Presentation at the 17 Annual National Service-Learning Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
                          Blyth D, Saito R, et al. 1997. A quantitative study of the impact of service-learning programs. In A. Waterman (Ed.), Service-learning: Applications from the research. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.
                          Carter E, Swedeen B, et al. 2012. Engaging youth with and without significant disabilities in inclusive service learning. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44, 46–54.
                          Celio C, Durlak J, Dymnicki A. 2011. A meta-analysis of the impact of service-learning on students. J. Exp. Educ. 34, 164-181.
                          Checkoway B, Aldana A. Four forms of youth civic engagement for diverse democracy. Children and Youth Services Review 35 (2013) 1894–1899.
                          Conrad D, Hedin D. 1991. School-based community service: What we know from research and theory. Phi Delta Kappan, 77, 743−749.
                          Conway J, Amel E, et al. 2009. Teaching and learning in the social context: a meta-analysis of service Learning's effects on academic, personal, social, and citizenship outcomes. Teach. Psychol 36, 233e245.
                          Davand P, Basagaña X et al. 2018. The association between lifelong greenspace exposure and 3-dimensional brain magnetic resonance imaging in Barcelona schoolchildren. Environ. Health Persp. 126, 027012.
                          Dadvand P, Nieuwenhuijsen M et al. 2015. Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 112, 7937–7942.
                          Duke N, Skay C, et al. 2009. From adolescent connections to social capital: predictors of civic engagement in young adulthood. J. Adolesc. Heal 44, 161-168.
                          Engemann K, Pedersen C et al. 2019. Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 116, 5188–5193.
                          Ferreira P, Azevedo C, Menezes I. 2012. The developmental quality of participation experiences: Beyond the rhetoric that “participation is always good!” Journal of Adolescence, 35, 599 – 610.
                          Flanagan C, Cumsille P, et al. 2007. School and community climates and civic commitments: patterns for ethnic minority and majority students. J. Educ. Psychol. 99, 421-431.
                          Frank M, Barzilai A. 2004. Integrating alternative assessment in a project-based learning course for pre-service science and technology teachers. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education Vol. 29, No. 1.
                          Han J, Choi H, Jeon Y, Yoon C, Woo J, Kim W. 2016. The Effects of Forest Therapy on Coping with Chronic Widespread Pain: Physiological and Psychological Differences between Participants in a Forest Therapy Program and a Control Group. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 13:255. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13030255.
                          Heinze H, Hernandez Jozefowicz D, et al. 2010. Taking the youth perspective: Assessment of program characteristics that promote positive development in homeless and at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review 32. 1365–1372 p1370.
                          Leming J. 2001. Integrating a structured ethical reflection curriculum into high school community service experiences: Impact on students’ sociomoral development. Adolescence, 36, 33–45
                          Maas J, Verheij R et al. 2009. Morbidity is related to a green living environment. J Epid. Community Health. 63, 967–973.
                          Malin H, Han H, Liauw I. 2017. Civic Purpose in Late Adolescence: Factors That Prevent Decline in Civic Engagement After High School. Developmental Psychology Vol. 53, No. 7, 1384 –1397.
                          McLellan J, Youniss J. 2003. Two systems of youth service: Determinants of voluntary and required youth community service. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32, 47–58.
                          Miller C. 2013. Project impact: Service-learning’s impact on youth with disabilities. School Social Work Journal, 37, 52–60.
                          Mitchell T. D. 2008. Traditional vs. critical service- learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(2), 50-65.
                          Orevi N, Danon R. 1999. Learning ecology with educational technologies, paper presented at the International Workshop on Science Teachers Education toward the New Millennium, Haifa, Technion—Department of Education in Technology and Science.
                          Polman J, Pea R. 1997. Transformative communication in project science learning discourse. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. (ERIC ED407283).
                          Preuß M, Nieuwenhuijsen M et al. 2019. Low Childhood Nature Exposure is Associated with Worse Mental Health in Adulthood. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 16(10), 1809;
                          Shepherd H. 1998. The probe method: a project-based-learning model’s effect on critical thinking skills,Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A,59(3A), p. 779.
                          Shumer R. 1997. Learning from qualitative research. In A. Waterman (Ed.), Service-learning: Applications from the research. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.
                          Shumer R. 2005. Service-learning research: What we have learned from the past. Growing to Greatness 2005. St. Paul: National Youth Leadership Council.
                          Song C, Ikei H, Miyazaki Y. 2016. Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy: A Review of the Research in Japan. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 13:781. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13080781.
                          Thomas J. 2000. A Review of Research on Project-Based Learning. Online at
                          Tilley-Lubbs G. 2009. Good Intentions Pave the Way to Hierarchy: A Retrospective Autoethnographic Approach. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Fall, 59-68.
                          Yates M, Youniss J. 1996. A developmental perspective on community service in adolescence. Social Development, 5, 95−105.