July 17, 2006

Taking students to the other side of the world and back

Imagine traveling to Beijing, China for your high school classes' service-learning project. Well, students at Winchester High School in Massachusetts didn't just imagine it--they did it! Using English, history and communication skills and knowledge these students travel to China to teach other young people English. Not only did they offer a service that had once been forbidden to Chinese youth in the region, but these students also gained a new understanding and deep appreciation for a culture and set of traditions they knew little about.

An article about this high school classes' experience was printed in their local newspaper. Below is an excerpt capturing their experience:

A trip to the Dandelion School would provide an important service-learning experience for the WHS students. "When I told the students about the trip, I made it clear that they weren't going to stay in a four star hotel," Harvey said. "I wanted the kids to really think about why they wanted to go."

Eighteen students signed up for the trip. At the Dandelion School, each of them was assigned to two classes of their own. Harvey said the WHS students developed activities, songs and games to try and better communicate the English language to the students at the Dandelion School. While some of the Chinese students had a strong command of English, some experienced more trouble, Harvey said.

But despite language barrier, Harvey was impressed by the depth of communication experienced between the Chinese and American students. "The kids connected beautifully and in meaningful ways," Harvey said. "They really enjoyed each other's company, and the American kids felt very close to the Chinese kids. They were taken with the warmth and enthusiasm of the Chinese kids"

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This is one example of how international service-learning experiences can created shared learning experiences for both the students providing a service and the recipients of service. Other organizations supporting international service-learning experiences include:


International Partnership for Service-Learning
IPSL presents programs that combine formal academic study and substantive, hands-on community service in foreign countries working with local agencies such as schools and orphanages, health care and education institutions, recreational centers and community development projects.

Child Family Health International
Child Family Health International’s (CFHI) International Health Service-Learning Programs combine instruction, experience, service, and reflection to create a model that supports physicians and clinical sites abroad, addresses the healthcare needs of the underserved, and adds an unforgettable experiential element to each program participant’s education.

Amizade
Amizade coordinates service projects, academic service-learning, and co-curricular service-learning around the world. They customize programs for groups of six or more in several countries. Service-learning courses integrate rigorous academics, community-driven service, and intercultural awareness in locations around the world.


~Jessica Bynoe, National Coordinator Youth Innovation Fund

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