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Student volunteer programs – benefits and approaches

This information explains the benefits of student volunteer programs in schools.

Why volunteering

The department’s Wellbeing for Learning and Life framework talks about how to promote the wellbeing and resilience of children. Volunteering can be a key part of this. It supports students’ learning and wellbeing. Volunteering gives students a way to:

  • develop social skills
  • explore possible career options
  • find their purpose and help others
  • connect with people in their community
  • increase their self-understanding, independence and confidence.

How to approach student volunteering

Teachers might want to build on any volunteering work the school or students are already doing. They might prefer to create a new volunteer program that links to the curriculum in a way that helps with the personal development of their students.

There are several different ways to approach student volunteering. A couple of examples are:

  • as part of formal learning – incorporating volunteering into classroom activity
  • extracurricular activity – students decide to do volunteering in their spare time.

If your school chooses to make volunteering part of formal learning, how it’s incorporated can be very flexible. It could be a year-level activity connected to school values, or it could tie to the curriculum in different subjects and learning areas.

The approach can be as simple as a guest speaker on a single day or something that runs over a term.

As part of formal learning

These two approaches link student volunteering to the Australian Curriculum.

Students learning about volunteering in the classroom

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to fit it all in a school day. Students can learn about volunteering in the classroom. It can be as simple or as complex as needed.

Fostering a Culture of Giving: Volunteering and the Australian Curriculum is a great collection of practical lessons and resources for teachers from reception to Year 10. There are educational links to English, mathematics, science, history, geography, civics and citizenship, health and physical education, art and work studies.

The resource has many opportunities for teachers to explicitly teach and assess general capabilities.

When students volunteer they develop their skills across the capabilities in an authentic and powerful way. This happens when students volunteer and as they learn, plan and reflect. In this way, a student might develop their:

  • empathy
  • collaboration
  • leadership
  • critical and creative thinking
  • ethical reflection
  • respectful communication.

Students as volunteers

Teachers can develop a program where students connect with the community. The easiest way to see what might be involved is to look at how you can plan and prepare for a student volunteer program.

Create a positive change

However it’s done, there’s strong research that shows volunteering can make students feel more confident and connected to people. It can create a positive change in their lives and the things they care about. Students develop skills they can apply in education or training and everyday life. This can all lead to better chances for employment.

Evidence shows the significant and positive impacts volunteering can have on students. You can read a story about how volunteering changed one student’s life (Word 967KB).

Students who volunteer often have positive stories to share:

'I’ve been going through some issues lately and this experience had really taken my mind off it. I really loved the whole thing and would do it over and over again.'

'... I feel as though I have succeeded in helping myself realise what I have and what I can do for others.'

'It made me appreciate my life more.'

Background and thank you

These resources were based on a student volunteer program developed for year 9 students by a teacher from Ocean View College. The resources are free for use in any school.

Contact

Student volunteer program – we'd like to hear from you

If you found these student volunteer resources useful or have ideas for us, please get in contact.

Volunteers – Engagement and Wellbeing directorate

Phone: 8226 3795
Email: education.volunteers [at] sa.gov.au (subject: Student%20volunteer%20program%20feedback)