Service-learning at retreats for children with special needs and their families

The Australasian Journal of University-Community Engagement has just published a paper I wrote with some colleagues about service-learning in the context of the SNUG retreats.

Volunteering, community service, service-learning and other forms of community engaged scholarship form part of a continuum from a focus on service to a focus on learning. Based on the experience of students involved in SNUG (Special Needs Unlimited Group) retreats for children with special needs and their families, this paper suggests that students play an important role in determining the degree to which the focus is on service or learning. Between January 2009 and June 2012, The University of Newcastle’s Family Action Centre ran 15 SNUG retreats with 72 families, supported by 115 student-volunteers. The student-volunteers played a crucial role in SNUG by assisting with daily activities, accompanying families to dental and medical visits, assisting with activities for the children, and generally ensuring the smooth running of the retreats. Unlike most service-learning, there were no explicit links to course objectives, but motivated students created links between their experience and their study for themselves, and/or reflected on what they learnt through assessments tasks set for other subjects. The experience of SNUG suggests that service-learning does not need to have formal links with course objectives to provide students with the opportunity to both contribute to the wellbeing of families and to learn from their experience.

The full paper is freely available from It starts on page 71 of the PDF document.

Stuart, G., Hazelwood, E., Sinclair, E., & Bourne, K. (2013). Service-learning at retreats for children with special needs and their families. Australasian Journal of University-Community Engagement, 8(1), 64-81.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

  1. Retreats for families of children with special needs (a more detailed report re SNUG)
  2. A course on community capacity building
  3. A course on community engagement
  4. What is the Strengths Perspective?

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Facilitation & teaching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Service-learning at retreats for children with special needs and their families

  1. Service-learning at retreats for children with special needs and their families | Sustaining Community Engagement


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