by Sarah Urquhart, YIS Service Learning Coach & Secondary Science Teacher
Culture can be defined as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization” (Merriam Webster). At YIS, service learning is increasingly a key part of our school’s culture and identity. All of our grade levels from ELC to grade 8 maintain service partnerships that connect classes with community needs while simultaneously providing students with new skills and perspectives. For grade 9-12 students, there are a wide range of YIS service groups that allow students to explore local and global issues of interest while also taking action that leads to positive change. Service is a key part of what we do and who we are as a community.
Research from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education identifies 8 Forces that Shape Group Culture, one of which is modeling. Modeling requires educators to “see ourselves through our students’ eyes”, reminding us that “Implicitly, our actions are constantly on display for our students. They see our passions, our interests, our caring, and our authenticity as thinkers, learners, community members, and leaders.” Children will learn to prioritize and value what adults in their lives also prioritize and value. In response to the potential of modeling, the PTSA has formed the PTSA Service Liaison Team with the dual goal of providing parents with service opportunities while also supporting students and staff in existing service initiatives. I encourage everyone to join the opportunities afforded by the PTSA Service Liaison Team to experience service learning as students do, and to demonstrate to our students that service is important for everyone.
The PTSA Service Liaison Team at a recent beach clean-up
We all have a role to play in shaping our culture of service at YIS. This year, I have the pleasure of taking on a revised position of responsibility at YIS as Service Learning Coach which spans ELC, Elementary and Secondary. Just as a sports coach provides guidance, support and encouragement to develop athlete expertise, I similarly collaborate with others to guide, support and encourage effective engagement in service learning. Part of this coaching will be alongside others ‘on the field’ in our local community, and part will be through the many reflective conversations I have with others about their experiences. Ultimately, my goal is for everyone in the YIS community - students, parents, and staff - to possess common understandings and beliefs around the importance of service learning and to put those beliefs into practice.
If you would like to know more about the YIS service learning program, please join us for a Service-focused parent session on Friday, November 15 from 9:30 am after the PTSA Meeting in the Cafeteria. I hope to see you there!
Secondary Science Teacher
& YIS Service Learning Coach