The Four Types of Service

Grade Level: 
KS4, PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, KS1, KS2, KS3
Common Good
Service Learning
Student action may be direct, indirect, advocacy, research, or a combination of these.

Types of Service Projects

After learning about a community need, students look for action they can take beyond the fundraiser or canned food drive. It is helpful to know that service takes four basic forms:

Direct, Indirect, Advocacy and Research

  • Direct Service is service that direct affects the persons, animals or parks we want to impact. This may include volunteering or cleaning up a park.
  • Indirect Service might take the form of fundraising or collections. It is they type of service in which you are not in the presence of the person or thing you are impacting.
  • Advocacy is when you speak up for or against an issue or solution. When we use our voices, we are being advocates. To learn more about Advocacy and Action, watch and play this 3-minute video with your students. 
  • Research involves finding out new information that informs or demands action. For example, it could be scientific data collection or a survey.

Here are some examples of ways to take action for different issue areas ...

Issue Area: establish a culture of kindness,

Direct: Craft bracelets or pins with inspirational quotes and give them to anyone in the community that may need support

Indirect: Organize a collection drive to ask neighbords and school families to donate supplies or gifts for a family that has recently experienced a loss.

Advocacy: Create a program for the school or community that discusses anti-bullying. 

Research: Research state and national laws on cyber-bullying. Share the current legislature and data with the school and community to create more advocacy. 

Issue Area: stewardship for the environment,

Direct: Build birdhouses in collaboration with the local nature center to attract a bird whose home is threatened. 

Indirect: Organize a collection drive to ask neighbors and school families to donate garden supplies for a community garden. 

Advocacy: Hold a community information night to inform neighbors about the importance of reducing invasive species. 

Research: Take water samples and participate in species count days. Share research data about the health of a site in order to ask the community to take action. 

Issue Area: build inter-generational relationships, 

Direct: Involve students in a weekly or monthly partnership with a local senior living community or senior center. Students could host a game night or participate in one-on-one conversations. 

Indirect: Organize a collection drive to ask neighbors and school families to donate books, magazines, equipment or other items to a local retirement community. 

Advocacy: Hold a community information night to inform community members about the needs of seniors in the community. Try to coordinate ways to get them the help they need. 

Research: Have students research the best energy practices and learn what minor changes people can do to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Share this information with seniors in the community. 

Action often takes place in a community where students have identified a need.

Taking learning outside the classroom gives it a purpose and context for connection. Remember, community doesn't mean just your local neighborhood; a community can be as small as a group of people and as large as the world!

Additional Resources

The Issue Area Toolkits each provide examples of the four types of service, as well as links to lessons and resources to support you and your students throughout the service-learning process. Be sure to encourage your students document their service through pictures, videos, interviews, and journals to connect reflection to the service-learning process