A team of superstar student leaders shared their service-learning journeys at a CIS online virtual conference.
Service Learning is one of the core pillars of learning at SJI International and we strive to provide opportunities for every student, from grades 7 to 12, to engage in community meaningfully to deepen their understanding of local issues, make connections to global issues, and to develop skills that will equip them to be positive contributors to societies in the future.
The five stages of Service-Learning (investigation, planning, action, reflection and demonstration) are used to guide students as they strive to take positive action in collaboration with NGOs, charities and organisations across Singapore and Southeast Asia. By the time students become IB CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) students in grade 11, they are therefore familiar with the process of Service-Learning (as it is synonymous with the CAS stages) and can make informed decisions about projects they choose to join or initiate themselves. Action can either be direct service (face to face interaction with beneficiaries), indirect service (donation drives, planning and running events in agreement with the beneficiary), advocacy (raising awareness, promoting causes) or action research (data collection, surveying etc.) and students are reminded that all action should be informed, and all needs should be authenticated.
Student voice and choice is valued at each grade level and students are encouraged to engage in projects in addition to the expectations set by the school. Systems in place are designed to support student-initiated action and a student-led service council are actively involved in decision-making and mentoring of individuals and interest groups throughout the school year.
In grade 7, all students are engaged in service-learning rooted in curriculum and participate in the Safe Water Garden initiative, a life-saving sanitation project driven by Loola on Bintan Island, Indonesia. Students are also encouraged to foster kindness through giving as part of their well-being journey. Each term, they support one of our community partners through the act of giving, be it making care packs for people living in Dementia Day Care centres across Singapore or collecting books for community libraries across the region.
Grade 8 students are encouraged to continue to develop their awareness of grassroots solutions addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In term 1, all students engage in training sessions with Heartware Network facilitators so that they are equipped with skills that can be used to initiate their own service projects in term 2. They learn about teamwork, goal setting, project planning and ethical community action. These skills are applied when students initiate their own environmental projects in term 2 rooted in learning that takes place in Geography and Science classes.
Grade 9 & 10
Grade 9 and 10 students engage in service work with local partners on a weekly basis (which range from NLB literacy programmes to walking dogs at animal shelters to home renovations across Singapore). Regardless of the nature of the service project, all students are required to actively participate and show initiative and engagement. Some choose to commit to programmes during the weekends and holidays too. Students also have the option to dive deeper into global issues through online learning modules with FutureLearn.
Grade 11 & 12
As IB CAS students in Grades 11 and 12, all students are required to design their own experiential learning programme and as part of that, are expected to commit to Service experiences and projects for the duration of their time studying in the IB Diploma. As part of this programme, all grade 11 students participate in Challenge Week during the October break. They travel in groups of 8-10 with a project of their choosing in the region. In times of Covid-19 where physical travel is not possible, all students engage in a virtual journey and support their chosen partner through a range of indirect service and advocacy projects.
We currently have 25 established Challenge Week partners. The preparation for Challenge Week is rigorous and guided. It is framed by the five CAS (service learning) stages and driven by the seven IB CAS learner outcomes (ranging from engaging with issues of global significance to demonstrating the skills and recognising the benefits of working collaboratively.) Students are encouraged to select their Challenge Week project based on what matters to them, global issues they would like to explore, and the communities they are keen to learn more about.
Our Challenge week group has partnered with Gili Eco Trust to raise awareness for the issue of coral reef bleaching.
As soon as we heard Willing Hearts had resumed their donation drives, my community jumped at the opportunity.
For our grade 11 CAS project, we are honoured to be working with Track of the Tiger from Thailand