WHAT IS SERVICE-LEARNING?
Are you familiar with the concept of ‘service-learning’? In simple terms, it’s when students combine their in-school learning with service to their local communities.
This type of learning has as much to offer our students as it does the communities they serve. It empowers them to be leaders in change, and enhances their wellbeing, their attitudes to self and school, and nurtures their critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence.
More than this, it helps young people discover their passions and talents by applying themselves to address real-world problems and to make a difference in the lives of others. Although it has much in common with charity work and community service, what sets service-learning apart is the focus on the learning process and the personal growth of each student who takes part.
Students are asked to dive deeply into global issues so they can truly understand the contributing factors and any barriers to action, which allows them to build up a knowledge base to make informed decisions. It also helps develop useful skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, project management, leadership, personal reflection, and empathy.
SERVICE-LEARNING IN ACTION
At my school, the British International School Budapest, we use service-learning for so much more than just fundraising. We aim to empower our learners with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to act on complex global issues and build a better future.
All our secondary students undertake a service-learning project every year, which involves many weeks of research and planning towards a fully student-led, week-long, coordinated programme of advocacy and action. Here are some examples:
Service-learning at our school has helped us become a hive of social impact activity. More and more, students are taking part in their own extra-curricular projects and acting on the issues they care about, which is wonderful to see.
Our Social Impact Student Union (the SISU) consists of 11 student-led groups whose work addresses a variety of environmental, economic, and humanitarian issues and is chaired by a Year 12 student. Their work this year has included:
CHANGING STUDENTS’ LIVES
Service-learning has become a fundamental part of our school culture and mindset of the young people within our community. Through serving others, they have learned about themselves and their place within society.
I’ve heard the following comments from students when discussing their involvement in service-learning activities:
Through my involvement with our school’s service-learning programme, I’ve observed students grow in confidence, maturity, and responsibility, and watched them discover their own potential to lead and contribute beyond the classroom.
Rather than distract or draw attention away from academics, service-learning enhances in-classroom learning as students are more engaged with their work and more motivated by seeing real world applications for their learning. As we are all part of a global network where our lives are interconnected, it’s important for us to engage with and assist our community wherever we can.
Rachel Rhodes is the Social Impact Lead at The British International School Budapest