Where did my passion for service learning stem from?
One of the reasons I chose to teach in the international school network was my desire to help empower students to become young activists. As the director of my own non-profit before I began my teaching career, I designed a wide range of school-related programs and spoke to school groups ranging from kindergartens to graduate schools. In some cases (like the video on the top), I paired up schools in the US with community projects in developing countries and served as a liaison for their fundraising/awareness efforts. In other instances (like the second video from the top), I empowered inner-city youth in the US to make a positive difference in their own communities. As rewarding as this work was, I always felt a bit sorry when I had to walk away at the end of the project. "If only I could have worked with those students for an extended period of time," I lamented, "I think I would have been able to have a profound impact on these students, turning them into bonafide activists."
How have I harnessed service learning as a teacher?
As is described in this article (see link page 13), I designed and implemented a new class at Schutz American School in Egypt which was based on global citizenship and service learning. The goal of the class was threefold:
1) to educate our middle school students about important global and local issues;
2) to empower them to make a positive difference through service learning;
3) to foster a greater sense of community amongst the sixty students of our middle school.
Here are a few of our success stories:
1. Blanket Distribution Project in Impoverished neighborhood of Alexandria (see video on the right --> )
2. Our annual outreach day with local special needs school (see video here)
3. Flood Relief Clothing Drive (see video here)
4. Back-to-School Backpack Buddies Program (see video here)
Service Learning Coordinator at Schutz and Western Academy of Beijing (WAB)
How did I help develop our Week Without Walls program to take service learning "on the road"?
In my four years at Schutz, I helped develop and plan our middle school's first-ever Week Without Walls trips. The first two years, I designed the service learning portions of our trips to Aswan in Upper Egypt. We delivered humanitarian aid packages to Nubian families in need, worked with an animal hospital, created a mural with art students in Aswan, hiked through the desert and toured numerous historical sites.
Then in 2017, I took on the responsibility of planning our entire trip, including all of the logistics (lodging, meals and transport for 53 people), as well as the cultural and service learning components of our five-day trip to Cairo and a desert oasis called Fayoum. Highlights included hands-on learning at an organic farm and volunteering at an under-privileged school.
The photos to the left document a few highlights of our Week Without Walls trips.
Service Learning Coordinators work closely with administrators and teachers in order to:
1. Make sure they understand the objectives of a successful service learning experience
2. Help students understand (and implement) the five-stage service learning process
3. Design engaging and effective service learning around their curricula
4. Foster effective and creative forms of reflection and demonstration
Click here to learn more about my efforts as Middle School Service Learning Coordinator at my current school of WAB.