Students in middle adolescence often have a strong sense of what is not right with their world but at the same time feel least capable of making any positive change to this view (Bandura, 1995). The Radford College Service Learning program is a powerful means of connecting students with that world and giving them a sense of meaning and fostering a belief that they can be active and informed citizens capable of making changes in their own lives as well as the lives of others. When young people engage in Service Learning, it not only provides a direct service to the community, but students also learn about the context in which the service is provided, the connection between the service and their own learning objectives and their roles as citizens.
Radford's Service experience has a long history, is well embedded in the culture of the College and is a signature experience of a student's time at the college. Whilst participating in Service experiences we have seen:
- Deep learning through active participation in service experiences
- Meaningful reflection by thinking, discussing & writing about their service experiences, promoting learning & understanding about themselves & the world they live in
- The use of skills and knowledge in real-life situations
- An extension of learning beyond the classroom and into the community which has fostered for many a profound sense of caring and compassion.
The impact of Service Learning has also been seen in the impact on our local community through:
- Building effective collaborative partnerships between Radford and other institutions and organisations
- Engaging parents and other adults in supporting their son or daughter in their service and in many circumstances serving together with their children
- Meeting community needs through the service projects conducted
- Providing engaging and productive opportunities for young people to work with and learn from members of their local community
Service Learning is enhanced by purposeful and inclusive activity. It can be whole-year involvement: for example, in Year 9 RAVE classes, every student visited Black Mountain School to spend some time alongside the students and staff there - and this experience is now being built upon in asking every Year 10 Radford student to complete 20 hours of community service out of school time this year. It can be proposed, conceived, planned and performed through our RAS (Radford Action Service-Learning) program or through Round Square opportunities.
By the time a Radford student commences in the senior school, it is hoped that they will have had their empathy increased, their compassion well and truly activated (as opposed to spoken about) and their understanding of what is needed to create a just, inclusive, sustainable and diverse community broadened and challenged.
Where Radford hopes to enhance a student's approach to service is through an acknowledgement and appreciation of Roman Krznaric's notion that empathy ...needs to make a difference. It has to inspire moral action of some form. In other words, we need to go beyond words and thoughts and actually do something. To act.
In his 2008 paper "You are Therefore I am: How Empathy Education Can Create Social Change" Krznaric states: There is a tendency to focus on fostering empathy within the local community (such as at school, and with friends and family), without giving adequate attention to how to nurture empathy on a more global basis, with strangers who live beyond the boundaries of the immediate environment. In taking all of Year 9 to the other side of the mountain to share time with BMS kids or to experience life in a refugee's "shoes" through the Worn Soles program; encouraging Year 10s to assist with the rehabilitation of walking/biking trails a few kilometres away at Bruce Ridge or through walking/playing alongside our friends at Cranleigh, Pegasus and RAID Basketball; or maybe in the Senior School years through taking a ten minute walk from the Senior Block to spend time with a resident in aged care at Calvary Retirement Community (in the senior school years), heading into the city to make and share food with street kids, helping to organise a dynamic and thought-provoking Dirrum Dirrum conference, or travelling further to Gamilaraay Schools in northern NSW or overseas to Timor Leste to maintain existing relationship with communities in indigenous educational settings, to name a few; our kids are given many (sometimes profound) opportunities to develop empathy, compassion and care beyond the Radford boundaries and out into the wider world.
We hope all of our students will embrace these.
In 2009, a DEEWR report entitled "Testing and measuring the impact of values education on quality teaching" discovered that schools that actively engage in service learning will find that:
- students become more academically diligent
- the school assumes a calmer, more peaceful ambience
- better student-teacher relationships are forged
- student and teacher wellbeing improves
- parents are more engaged with the school...
Who could ask for too much more? But at the end of the day it needs to be stressed, it is not about what we need, but what we can actively and lovingly do â?? after some listening, respecting and imagining â?? alongside others. We look forward to witnessing the impact of service experience on the students and listening to their accounts and reflections.