North Vancouver School District
the natural place to learn©
News Item

Community service a fundamental component of student education

August 30, 2017

​Written By Jodie Warren, Vancouver Sun


Students at Stratford Hall take part in the annual ‘clean up our community’ event after Halloween. Handout / PNG

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Most would agree that a true education involves more than just academics. A true learning experience should be multi-dimensional and ideally, include a developed sense of the value of giving back.

John Wray, head of school for Mulgrave School, says developing service-minded students is enshrined in the school’s mission, vision and values statements. “The whole concept of service and service learning is a fundamental part of our [school’s] character,” he says.

As an independent school, where students often have financial and other advantages, service is particularly important, Wray says. “To some extent, we serve a privileged community, and given that children come from privileged backgrounds, it’s even more important that they are serving their communities,” he says. Wray also believes the notion of community service is deeply tied to the country’s culture. “It’s very Canadian.”

Mulgrave is a K-to-12 school where students have opportunities for service throughout their education, from fundraising to visits to senior homes in younger grades, to volunteering at food and clothing banks in middle grades. By Grades 10 to 12, these opportunities have an international dimension through foreign trips focusing on service rather than just learning about culture and history. Wray cites a recent trip to India, where students supported doctors and nurses in vision and dental tests in Ladakh.

Community service is also a central pillar in Stratford Hall’s educational philosophy. “As an IB World School, contributing back to our local and international communities is central in our mission,” senior school principal Michelle Douglas says of the East Vancouver-based International Baccalaureate school. “Throughout the curriculum, we emphasize the development of students’ thoughtfulness, attentiveness and awareness of local and international issues.”

In middle and senior grades, says Douglas, every student is engaged in service learning throughout the year and completes “personal reflections” on how their engagement is impacting themselves and their community. There are group efforts (such as the annual ‘clean up our community’ event after Halloween) and individual efforts (Douglas cites one example where a Grade Five student started a water bottle drive after interviewing homeless individuals and learning that they struggled with access to clean drinking water).

“There is a direct link to IB Philosophy that is then fostered from these experiences which is then brought into the classroom to ensure relevance and investment for our students in their learning,” says Douglas.

At the North Vancouver School District, the value of community service is fostered through curricular offerings and student clubs. At the high school level, students gain access to service through work experience and leadership programs, volunteering at elementary feeder schools and as counsellors at the Cheakamus Centre Outdoor School Program. Students are also encouraged through extra-curricular efforts such as the Kiwanis Care Club at Windsor secondary, where student volunteers support Kiwanis Seniors Centre programs, and the Interact Club, School Chapter of Rotary International, where students volunteer in fundraising initiatives to raise money for educational opportunities in developing countries.

Adam Baumann, the district’s director of instruction, sees these opportunities as yielding many benefits to students. “Our students achieve more when they are engaged, and volunteer opportunities are a great way to engage our students,” he notes. “When students volunteer and discover their passion, they are then able to bring it back into the school, and discover more ways of how they can contribute to the community and economy.”

Baumann also points to the broad-based admissions programs that many post-secondary institutions, both in Canada and the U.S., are using to assess applications, meaning “in addition to academic achievement, post-secondary schools also look at the student’s contributions to the greater community.”

Click here to read the full article featured in the Vancouver Sun.