Service Learning at SIS; How Effective Hands On Experiences are Transforming Lives

The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, in recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.

All IB schools across the globe need to satisfy this section of the curriculum, and at Sotogrande International School our students don’t simply satisfy it, but exceed it thanks to meaningful curricular connections, enhanced by our student driven NGO, The Kindred Project.

The Kindred Project is sewn right into the fabric of life here at Sotogrande International School and works in a phenomenal amount of ways to enrich students’ service learning experiences and shape the way they think about the world. 

Amongst an array of wonderful examples, through this blog we would like to highlight one of our latest projects which started in the 2018-2019 academic year and reached great heights during the summer of 2019 – the Science Kits for the Nabugabo Community Learning Centre (NCLC), built around the 2019 Uganda Expedition.

It all began when a passionate group of M2 Advisors wished to provide their students with a real and meaningful service learning opportunity; something that would allow them to apply subject matter to develop plans and connections to help others. After analysing some of our project needs and priorities, we identified the development of Teaching & Learning resources for the Nabugabo Community Learning Centre (NCLC) in Uganda, as a perfect fit. With copies of the Ugandan National Curriculum at hand, NCLC co-founders two hours away from SIS, 60+ M2 students ready for action, NCLC teachers’ phone numbers, and the Uganda Expedition only a few months away, the project was bound to go well. However, what was achieved by this tight networking web exceeded everyone’s expectations. Yet again, our students showed us the potential that lies within.

With a contextualisation session led by NCLC co-founder Judy Harris, a few observation visits to our Primary classes, and a detailed analysis of the Ugandan Primary Curriculum, our M2’s kicked-off with their service learning project. It took several tests and trials, but soon enough the Teaching & Learning resources began to take shape. The four iPads for NCLC bought with the Primary Sleepover funds arrived and we handed them over to the M2’s so they could also download learning apps that would further enhance learning. And before we knew it, the first ever SIS Science Fair was taking place, aiming to raise enough funds to buy science kits for the NCLC students and bring learning to life! This initiative was taken one step further with Josh K’s M3 Community Project, raising not only more awareness, but also funds towards the NCLC Science Kits. Once we had the funds, it was time for the NCLC teachers to send us their dreamed “Wish List”.

The careful planning and consideration put in by pupils and staff alike throughout the academic year to fund and create ready to use, long lasting and effective Teaching and Learning resources and equipment for use at NCLC has been simply phenomenal. And, of course, the finished product was definitely worth all the hard work! In the words of Phil Berry – SIS science teacher who attended the the Uganda Expedition – “NCLC students and staff flocked to after school sessions on how to use the equipment and their response was one of complete gratitude. To be able to have practical lessons for the first time will greatly improve the students’ chances of succeeding in their end of Primary PLE exams.”

However, the M2 service learning project effect didn’t stop there, as it also deeply impacted the 13 students who led the Uganda Expedition in July 2019, as they were the ones to carry the baton over to NCLC with the responsibility of putting the resources and equipment into action. These service learning expeditions have a profound effect on many of our students at SIS, as they provide further opportunities for students to learn outside of their normal day to day school life. Students often return with new outlooks about the world in which we live and with a greater depth of knowledge of themselves and their capabilities. Service learning in reality spans far beyond using already acquired skills outside of the classroom but opens opportunities to learn so much more, and for students to discover skills they didn’t even know they had.

The influence of these expeditions becomes clear when students like Enola G. reflect on their time in Uganda. Going on the Uganda expedition was the best decision of my life. Through hands-on work in the community of Nabugabo, I realised that I am driven by helping others, and suddenly my career path became very clear. The day I came back from the trip, I was confident about studying politics and international relations at university, with the intention of making a difference for those who need it the most.”

Enola is just one example of how influential these experiences are on individuals. Whether it changes their career choice or helps guide them in daily decision making, these service learning opportunities certainly contribute to shaping the lives of the students’ at Sotogrande International School.

Furthermore, the wonderful thing is that the impact has also come from SIS students’ service learning initiatives who have never been to Uganda! Initiatives such as Send a Child to School, Readathon, the Primary Sleepovers and many other student driven initiatives such as the Dreaming Dragons Pop-Ups, M3 Community Projects, and CAS activities mean that SIS students are continuously drawing upon their service learning opportunities to positively impact students’ lives at NCLC. The Send a Child to School programme, for example, currently ensures that 57 students at NCLC have access to their right to an education, basic health care, food and clothing. This life-shaping opportunity for NCLC students would not be possible without the commitment and conviction our students and the whole school community have to use education as a force for good through the service learning activities that are provided at Sotogrande International School and The Kindred Project.This is one of the many examples of how service learning has helped us to in turn positively influence the lives of the students at NCLC.

The power of service learning should never be underestimated. It is our students here at SIS who drive The Kindred Project, who support all initiatives, participate in expeditions, and who set in motion effects which are far reaching. Service learning gives us purpose, guides our moral compass and, we believe, makes us unique.

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