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Understanding service

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Keri Benefield
Former Primary School Service Coordinator and Grade 4 Teacher
Robert Adcock
Infant School Curriculum Coordinator, Dover Campus

Understanding service

It’s a typical day in K2 (if there is such a thing). Students are learning about ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society), the Infant School Global Concern (GC) in connection with their Unit of Study ‘Feathers, Fur and Fins.’ With a focus on endangered animals, Mr Matthews, a Grade 4 teacher and ACRES volunteer, has visited the class to speak to the children about the organisation. Later that afternoon Lucas happens to lose his tooth. Before bed, he writes a letter, “Dear Tooth Fairy, can you please give me money to help ACRES Animal Rescue Centre?” The generous tooth fairy fulfils his wish. Lucas is able to give his tooth fairy money to ACRES.

This anecdote describes age-appropriate action by just one of our students as a result of our service learning curriculum. One of the five elements of the UWCSEA Learning Programme, the Service programme is directly linked to our mission and begins with our youngest students. While the donation of Lucas’ tooth fairy money directly supported one of our GC partners, all our students are involved in learning opportunities that are created within our curriculum and linked with College and Local Singapore-based community service projects. UWCSEA’s links with our community—whether College, Local or Global—are an integral part of our written Service curriculum, which describes age-appropriate learning outcomes that are achieved through opportunities for participation in each grade level.

While the context of service learning is different in each grade, and looks different in practice between our two campuses, the curriculum standards remain consistent throughout the College. All students, regardless of campus, or grade-level or learning activity, are striving for learning in each of the three standards.

K–12 Service Curriculum Standards

1. Awareness: By developing awareness, skills and qualities, individuals can become determined global citizens who recognise their ability to enact positive change.

2. Sustainable Development – Systems Thinking: Individuals and groups can plan to engage effectively in the sustainable development of local and global communities.

3. Taking Action – Being Changemakers: By taking informed, purposeful action, individuals and groups can act as changemakers, contributing to the sustainable development of local and global communities.

While the standards are consistent across the College, conceptual understandings and benchmarks differ between school sections and grades. Naturally, ‘enacting positive change’ and ‘plan to engage effectively’ as expressed in the standards above, will manifest differently according to a child’s developmental understanding.

So what does it look like in action? The examples from the Dover Infant School on the opposite page illustrate the carefully designed learning experiences that support the teaching of specific concepts and benchmarks. The K–12 Service Curriculum Standards which are used to shape these experiences were in turn influenced by Catherine Berger Kaye’s ‘Cycle of Service Learning’, which describes how the learning emerges: a process of initial investigation and preparation leads the student to take considered action, which is followed by reflection and, finally, consolidated through demonstration (Dunia, December 2018, pages 6-7).

Indicators of success

A true indicator of learning is the transfer and application of understanding into different situations, both in and out of school. For Lucas, in his K2 year, his learning transferred to his tooth fairy experience and donation. This will look very different for a Grade 11 on Project Week. While not all students will go on to pursue a career that could be described as ‘in service’, our Service curriculum is designed to help students develop an understanding of the power of service. It specifically hopes to empower UWCSEA students to recognise where they can (and should) take action for good, and to demonstrate that they can, individually, take responsibility for, and contribute to, shaping a more peaceful world with a sustainable future. Regardless of their life path.

References

Ricard M (2015), Altruism: The Science and Psychology of Kindness, Atlantic Books, London | Alexander J (2019) The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids, TarcherPerigee | Berger Kaye (2010) Knocking Down the Walls! Service Learning Ideas and Process, CBK Associates, Los Angeles | United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31, https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx

K1 Local Service: Child at Street 11

Conceptual Understanding: The way an individual takes action can lead to an outcome that supports individual or group wellbeing.
Benchmark: Take action and reflect on its outcome.
Learning experience: In K1, students explore the ‘Child’s Right to Play’ as expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. They enact this by designing play experiences for children from the Singapore preschool Child at Street 11. Students from this organisation are invited to interact with K1 students on our campus over four Discovery Time sessions. For each visit, K1 classes take turns to host the Child at Street 11 guests and guide them through activities. In addition, K1 students visit a local supermarket to purchase healthy snacks to share with their guests before they arrive. Throughout this service, K1 students practice kindness, patience and responsibility with their new friends.

K2 College Service: Our School Community

Conceptual Understanding: By thinking about others in their community, individuals can develop skills and qualities that build a sense of fairness, kindness and respect.
Benchmark: Practise actions that are fair, kind and respectful.
Learning experience: In their first Unit of Study, ‘Our School Community’, K2 students inquire into actions that are fair, kind and respectful. They gain an awareness of the roles and responsibilities of specific staff members, including cleaning staff, groundskeepers and Sodexo cooks.

After meeting these individuals and learning about the value and importance of their roles in our College, K2 students prepare a special thank you in order to express their respect and gratitude. Students take action by brainstorming ways to thank the staff while reflecting on things that they have learnt about the staff members, making the action personally relevant.

G1 Local Service: Lions Befrienders

Conceptual Understanding: By investigating systems within natural and built communities, individuals can identify possible needs and consider actions for sustainable development.
Benchmark: Brainstorm and analyse possible actions for the sustainable development of a community.
Learning experience: Grade 1 classes make weekly visits to Ghim Moh Lions Befrienders, visiting the centre every five weeks on approximately six visits across the year. Prior to the visits, students develop an awareness of how the organisation serves senior citizens through presentations from teachers. The students then interview their Lions Befrienders to collect information on the types of activities they would like to do throughout the year. This enables students to plan actions based upon informed and relevant choices for both parties.

Emphasis is placed on reciprocity: engaging in service benefits us as well as our partners as we learn from them and broaden our perspectives and understanding of the world.

Infant School Global Concern: ACRES

Conceptual Understanding: The way an individual takes action can lead to an outcome that supports individual or group wellbeing.
Benchmark: Share action with the goal of inspiring others.
Learning experience: In K1, the GC connects with the Unit of Study ‘Living and Non-Living’ in which students define ‘living’ and ‘non-living’ and explore the common fundamental needs of living things.

In K2, the Unit of Study ‘Feathers, Fur and Fins’ explores the similarities and differences between different animals through direct observation, questioning and research. Students then consider how these features support survival, and the GC is introduced as students explore how they contribute to the survival of animals in Singapore.

In Grade 1, ACRES is linked to the Unit of Study ‘Animal Habitats’ when students learn about humankind’s responsibility towards animals and their habitats.
 

18 Dec 2019
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