Monday, January 25, 2016

Diving Deeper Into Service Learning

Last week, for the second time this academic year, Cathy Berger Kaye - an expert in service learning - came into town to work with the faculty at all levels. After a weekend workshop that drew nearly 30 educators from across the region she settled down to work with our HS, MS and ES faculty in planning. It's always nice to have Cathy come by because, in addition to being a simply wonderful connection to best-practices and a plethora of very practical ideas in good teaching and learning, she is also a great gauge on how ISKL is doing. 

Cathy has been visiting ISKL for the past three years and, as she puts it, "ISKL is doing very well". How can she tell?  The way she puts it it's about the conversations that take place at the planning sessions. No longer are we talking about what the stages of service learning are, or what constitutes "good service learning". Now the conversations are much more pointed, revolving around curricular and experiential learning experiences. For example, HS is working on developing the pastoral care program. MS is developing experiences that maximize learning through the use of appropriate literature connections. "How about becoming someone's hero?" was one of the questions in a grade 7 talk about The Odyssey.  At Elementary School the conversations are as varied as the faculty represented. From creating toolkits for others to writing books to gardening and compassion the interactions were thought provoking, extended thinking and challenged our teachers to determine the true purpose for their units. 

Perhaps than anything Cathy's visit allows us to become introspective, to collaborate in meaningful ways (on issues as varied as brushing teeth or human trafficking) and to think about the many possibilities in teaching through inviting students to engage in authentic learning that combines community needs with a curricular focus.

In her debrief to the ES Cathy was glowing in her remarks. She mentioned that we "are ready" to take the plunge, to generate exemplars, to document and to become the school that other schools will look up to. She, on her part, would make sure that she shares all the great stories of exceptional learning taking place at our school, this semester and beyond. It's a great time to be molding socially responsible global citizens at ISKL!    

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