October 14, 2023

How Service Learning Empowers Students to Be Active Contributors to Their Communities

As producers of global citizens and future leaders, international schools must make a serious effort to ensure that students are grounded and empathetic with the concerns of their communities. At Stamford American International School, students receive valuable community exposure through the school’s service learning programs, including PYP Taking Action, MYP Service as Action, and DP Creativity, Action Service.

Stamford American’s various service-learning programs take students to various locales within and outside of Singapore, helping them not only become more aware of pressing issues close to home but also of their roles with the wider global community. The hope is that these young individuals will become conscientious leaders and citizens who prioritize the well-being of others, within their communities and beyond.

Let’s further explore how Stamford American International School’s service-learning programs make this happen:

Exploring Issues and Taking Action

Service learning at Stamford American is not a passive endeavor; it is a dynamic process that encourages students to explore real-world issues. Through these programs, SAIS students delve into challenges faced by communities, both locally and globally. The emphasis on direct action ensures that students move beyond theoretical knowledge to true understanding, giving them the ability to take on problems in an effective yet sensitive manner.

One notable example of this approach is the collaboration with World Assistance for Cambodia, where students and other members of the Stamford American community came together to build the Cambodia Hope School in the Boribo Province. This initiative exemplifies the transformative power of service learning, providing disadvantaged children with educational opportunities and a pathway to a brighter future.

Skills Development through Community Exposure

The act of engaging with different people equips students to succeed in the real world. The process of planning and executing meaningful initiatives fosters leadership skills, critical thinking, and effective communication—attributes with value beyond the classroom.

Stamford American’s service-learning programs are designed to develop students’ interpersonal skills and teach them practical leadership and creative thinking outside the predictable classroom framework. In a wider context, these learnings may prove critical in ensuring that students are fully able to not only appreciate different issues but also address them, when necessary. These gleanings should ultimately help students become engaged and empathetic members of communities they will eventually join.

Making a Difference in the Present

Through Stamford American’s service-learning initiatives, students won’t have to wait until after they have left school to make a positive difference in people’s lives. SAIS students are given opportunities to engage with different communities from middle school onwards, giving them an early appreciation of the value of service that will be useful for the rest of their lives.

The school’s commitment to community service is evident in the annual Christmas Giving Tree initiative. Collaborating with the SAIS Parent Teacher Association (PTA), students at Stamford American fulfill the wishes of families and children from various charities, including the Singapore Cancer Society, Make a Wish Foundation, SOSD, Waterways, Willing Hearts, Ronald McDonald House, and Autism Resource Center (ARC).

This spirit of giving recently expanded into the Month of Giving initiative in 2021. Initiated by various Stamford American High School service clubs, the event aimed to provide resources and assistance to the wider community. Organizations that benefitted from these initiatives included SAIS’s service partners Community Chest and It’s Raining Raincoats, both of which work with underprivileged groups in Singapore.

Aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Stamford American actively incorporates the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its curriculum. These interconnected development goals are aimed at helping the world achieve a better, more equitable future where all individuals can access modern and dignified ways of living, regardless of their background, without negatively impacting others.

By integrating the UN’s goals into both academics and after school activities, students have a framework with which to view pressing global issues. This helps students set actionable goals and address important challenges in their own ways. The school’s diverse student-led clubs reflect a commitment to tackling challenges that align with the SDGs, giving students a range of options for contributing to a better world.

Service Learning: A Key Ingredient in Developing Holistic and Empathetic Achievers

Service learning at Stamford American International School goes beyond traditional education paradigms or even the expected Singapore international school experience. It recognizes the need for young, highly educated individuals to stay grounded while also helping them use their schooling for the benefit of less privileged communities. Crucially, the SAIS’s service-learning programs give students’ uniquely structured education a deeper and more immediate purpose. It’s also worth mentioning that, by being in Stamford American, students will be likely be given better opportunities to enter the world’s top universities. From these institutions, younger learners are likely to enter into positions of leadership and influence. The service-learning program is a key part of ensuring that students understand the connections between their learning and the wider world, hopefully making them truly worthy of the opportunities they may receive.

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