A Whole School Approach to Service Learning

POSTED: March 18, 2023 BY: LeeAnne Lavender,
A Whole School Approach to Service Learning

Many schools may have some embedded curricular service learning, or aspire to build genuine and purposeful service learning programs that align with the mission and vision of the school. It can be challenging, though, to design a whole school model that meets the needs of learners, supports and engages teachers, and honours community partnerships as collaborative, reciprocal relationships.

At Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, Kauthar Mohamed (Student Leadership & Service Learning Coordinator) and her team have built a robust model that equips students to understand and apply all five stages of the service learning cycle through grade-level experiences (rooted in the timetable and in a detailed plan for lessons and community engagement) and curricular experiences in a variety of subject areas.

The service learning program involves the key aspects outlined in the infographic (above); she stresses that having dedicated time in the school timetable each week is key to success. Some additional components of the Aga Khan Academy’s grade 6-10 program are:

* a Service Learning coordinator
* a Service as Action coordinator (who aligns unit objectives and curricular planning with service partnerships & service learning blocks in the timetable)
* grade-level fellows (recent university graduates who are trained in service learning and coordinate work with grade level homerooms)
* teachers who are engaged with professional development about service learning and who embed service learning experiences in the curriculum to align with grade-level work with community partners
* options for students in grades 6-10 to stay with one community partner for four years or to experience a range of community partners (a different partner each year)
* a new mentorship program for students in grades 6-8 where they will work with “experts” in a variety of civil society organizations, in thematic areas that align with the Aga Khan Development Network pillars and service learning
* a Service Learning handbook that guides all teachers, students, parents and community partners

Primary school students (up to and including grade 5) engage with service learning through the PYP curriculum and the PYP Exhibition, and grade 11 and 12 students engage with the IB CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) program. Kauthar and her team focus on grades 6-10, equipping students to listen to community partners, identify community assets and create action plans that are collaborative and co-created with the community partners.

Check out the video below to learn more about how Kauthar has designed her service learning program. Some of her ideas might work for your school, too! And you may want to look at one of her student’s Reflection Sites to see how students document their service learning experiences, as well.

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