Guidelines and Getting Started

1. Why should I seek out community/school experiences?

Experiences with youth in schools and community organizations can be an excellent way to expand awareness and understanding of one's own cultural and social background and of the wide diversity of social and cultural groups within U.S society and schools. Volunteer or service learning experiences can also help students gain valuable experiences in the profession of education, and help develop interpersonal, multicultural and reflective skills.

2. What guidelines should I follow in choosing my experiences?

  • Seek experiences that will expand understanding of various social and cultural groups within the U.S. Social and cultural groups can be based on the following characteristics: race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, language, religion or other aspects of the wide diversity of cultural identity represented in U.S. society and schools.

  • Seek experiences that require regular interaction with school-aged youth.  

  • Complete a minimum of 25 hours in each experience and spend a minimum of 10 weeks if the experience is during the academic year. Students volunteering in school-based programs are encouraged to commit to the experience for a minimum of one full semester, with at least once-per-week contact.

  • Because opportunities for reflection are important, consider service learning opportunities, especially those offered through the format of a course.

3. When should I begin seeking field experiences?

All students interested in teacher certification programs are strongly encouraged to pursue community and school opportunities before applying to teacher certification programs. These experiences can help students explore their interest in teaching before committing to an education program. Also, many education programs require students to write an essay when applying. Generally, students earn higher scores on this essay if they have completed community or school experiences, and if they are able to reflect thoughtfully on the learning that took place through these experiences.

4. How do I find an experience?

  • Service Learning Courses. Some courses offer the opportunity for service learning. In the School of Education, these include Curriculum and Instruction 375 Proseminar: Introduction to Education, and Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education 300 Individuals with Disabilities.

  • Education Academic Services. EAS maintains a bulletin board at our office at the Education Building (Rm. 139) with information from community-based organizations and schools that are currently seeking volunteers. Talk to your EAS advisor about ideas for good experiences.

  • Morgridge Center. The Morgridge Center for Public Service, located in the Red Gym, maintains an updated directory of hundreds of volunteer opportunities in the Madison area. Some of these opportunities are also posted on their website. The Morgridge Center also offers a once per semester volunteer fair.

5. How do I set up the experience?

Find out about opportunities of interest by visiting EAS and/or the Morgridge Center for Public Service. Talk with an EAS advisor about volunteer opportunities.

Contact the potential school or organization to obtain specific information about the commitment required, particular skills or interests required, location, days and times. Meet with the school or organization to learn more. Make sure to ask the following questions:

  • What will my commitment involve--length of time, days and times?

  • What activities will I be doing?

  • What has made previous volunteers/employees successful?

  • What is the overall mission of the program?

  • Are there any orientation and/or training opportunities?

  • Who is my supervisor and who can I go to for guidance?

6. Orientation and Training

Education Academic Services offers a “how to get started” session covering the following topics: finding volunteer opportunities; getting the most out of experiences; tips from students for students; ways of learning about multicultural education. Sign up at EAS or call 608-262-1651.

The Morgridge Center for Public Service and the Madison Metropolitan School District often offer volunteer training programs. Contact the Morgridge Center in the Red Gym for an updated list of campus and community training opportunities. Also, ask your supervisor at the volunteer site about training opportunities.

7. Are Experiences Required or Recommended?

Volunteer, work, or service learning experiences in school or community settings are not required by most School of Education programs, but are strongly recommended as an excellent way to gain experience. Many programs, including the Elementary Education program, seek students who have a demonstrated interest in social justice and equity issues, and who have worked effectively with children or youth.