Inspiring Global Citizenship: A Journey towards Whole-School Service Learning

POSTED: January 2, 2024 BY: LeeAnne Lavender,
Inspiring Global Citizenship: A Journey towards Whole-School Service Learning

Image caption: Students from ISK and Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (a community partner in ISK’s growing service learning program).

In January 2022, Sara Gregson took on the role of Service Learning Coordinator at the International School of Kigali (ISK) in Rwanda, excited to transform the school’s approach to service learning. Working with Inspire Citizens, she has embarked on a journey to reshape the school’s culture and foster a community of educators committed to service learning.

Despite being a small school with a limited budget, Sara knew that building a comprehensive service learning program required external expertise. In March of 2022, she attended the online AISA Service Learning Conference and crossed paths with Aaron Moniz from Inspire Citizens; she reached out to Aaron to create a strategic plan.

First, Sara and a dedicated pilot team collaborated virtually to establish a service learning mission and vision at ISK. The pilot team included Sara, the school’s director and curriculum coordinator, and a teacher from each division in the school.

By the end of 2022, three teachers worked individually to create unit plans for the upcoming academic year. The initiative gained momentum with an in-house launch of the all-school service learning program and an additional all-staff session which resulted in 11 additional enthusiastic educators coming on board to plan service learning units.

“So many teachers have realized they are teaching units that are already aligned with the principles of service learning,” says Sara. “If they tweak aspects or add elements, those units can be even more robust because of the service learning enhancement.”

Currently, 15 teachers (more than half the ISK teaching staff, including the entire language department and many subject teachers) are engaged in coaching to redesign curriculum. As the program expands, it has become a natural hub for collaboration, fostering a sense of community among teachers who share ideas and logistical information like contacts for field trips.

Sara notes that excitement among teachers has grown gradually, as they have realized the potential to enhance existing units with service learning elements. This collaborative spirit has translated into increased awareness of what’s happening in each other’s classrooms, fulfilling one of the program’s primary goals of building community at ISK.

For students at ISK, the impact of service learning is tangible. Adopting an assets-based community development model of community engagement (where students learn from and act with community partners), students have participated in meaningful interactions with local school partners. They have also engaged in reflective sessions about mindsets and perspectives, and have discussed how to avoid Western saviorism, and how to connect with local staff. Some students have demonstrated a commitment to language acquisition so they can communicate more effectively with local staff and local service partners.

The school is fostering relationships beyond its walls, inviting local students to shadow classes and explore Model United Nations (MUN), debates, student government, and friendly sports games. This exchange is a testament to the depth of connections that can be built through service learning.

Looking ahead, the school aims to embed service learning units across all grade levels, utilizing platforms like Toddle for curriculum planning. High school students have the opportunity to enroll in a Critical Global Citizenship class which includes opportunities for local internships and hands-on service.
“Initially we set a goal of one service learning unit per grade level and in the elementary school, we already have that,” reflects Sara. “The focus now is to teach all of the units that have been planned and figure out how to monitor and assess them before, during and after implementation, and then evaluate the units from the teacher’s point of view. We want to assess what additional support people need and how we can improve the units so they continue to be better.”
Despite the challenges of launching and growing an all-school service learning program, Sara and co-service learning coordinator Nathan Haines are committed to teaching full-time while also coordinating service learning efforts. They are committed to building community partnerships and ensuring a sustainable program by actively involving local staff and establishing meaningful collaborations with local organizations.

As ISK moves forward, the vision is clear: service learning units seamlessly integrated into the curriculum, coupled with experiential learning in a steady progression from PreK to grade 12. The challenge now lies in ensuring the sustainability of this transformative program, leveraging the support of a dedicated local staff and nurturing a growing community of global citizens.

Other story stories

See all stories

Search Story Telling

Contact us

Physical address
International School of Kenya Campus, Peponi Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Postal Address
P.O. Box 14103 - 00800, Nairobi, Kenya
+254 (20) 2697442 / 8076067
General Email:
AISA Conferences:
AISA Accounts:
AISA Marketing:
Executive Director:
Quick Contact
Contact Us

Subscription Form

Need additional assistance?


The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.

Cookie Policy

As part of the new data protection laws we are required to let you know when we use any kind of tracking devices or "cookies" on our website.

What are Cookies?

A cookie is a small text file that is sent to your computer via your web browser when you visit a website. Our website uses the WordPress platform, which uses Cookies to verify users. We also use Google Analytics on our website which uses Cookies. You can read more on "How Google uses information from sites or apps that use our services" via this link:

How do I disable cookies?

If you do not want to receive a cookie from Our Site, you have the option of setting your browser to notify you when you receive a cookie, so that you may determine whether to accept it or not.