Gr. 5 Service Learning: Preserving Yokohama's History

Gr. 5 Service Learning: Preserving Yokohama's History

by Nasci Lobo, Director of Communications and Marketing

Our dedication to service learning is deeply imbedded in our mission statement and is reflected in our program - every grade up to grade 8 has a dedicated partner organization with whom they work on a regular basis; high school students are free to choose a service club with which they want to work. Our Service Learning webpage states our vision for the program:

Service is a core part of who we are. It exemplifies what we believe about the way we should treat each other. It also sustains the spirit of support and care that YIS is known for. Service allows our school to contribute to and make a positive impact on local, national and international communities. It is action-focused and an integrated part of the learning program. Service brings opportunities to make connections between the curriculum and communities beyond the classroom.

Our grade 5 service program connects our students to the preservation of the history and contribution of the generations of non-Japanese residents of Yokohama. Across the street from the back corner of the campus lies the well-known and historically important Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery, known in Japanese as Yokohama Gaikokujin Bochi, which had its beginnings in the late 1800s. Early residents of Yokohama's foreign community, and their descendants, whether they are non-Japanese or Japanese, are laid to rest here. Out of respect for the importance of the role the foreign community has played in Yokohama's development, the school worked with the cemetery's Executive committee to establish a system for our students to help keep the grounds and tombstones presentable.

Each grade 5 class conducts this cleaning once per month for one hour; occasionally the entire grade will do this together. Before the visits, each class goes through the planning process, evaluates what they can do and sets goals for each visit.They also reflect and share their experiences with parents through their online portfolios and a self-reflection form. The form asks them questions such as, "How do I feel when I am helping someone else?", "How do I know I can make a difference?", "How do I know we are helping the community?", "What do I learn about myself when I am helping someone?".

The goals of the visits, outlined below, are connected to our mission:
Live - students experience interactions with members of our local community, and become empathetic to others' needs and interests.
Learn - students organize, lead, and reflect on activities that will help to maintain the local environment well while considering their own learning.
Lead - students share learning, and communicate experiences with those around them.

What do we want our students to learn about themselves through helping in their community? We want them to learn the following important lessons:
Language is not a barrier.
We can feel joy when giving our time, assisting, and caring for our environment.
They are global citizens.
The IB Learner Profile applies to real life.

What we would like students and parents to understand about service learning is that it is not just learning something new. Its essence lies in establishing and sustaining a personal connection through action to make a positive impact on communities, whether they be local, national or international.

This is the sixth article in a series documenting the grade-specific and group activities of our service program. Learn more about our program on the Service Learning page.