Upper School Students Begin Service-Learning Projects

By: Mr. Scott Gyenes

What is Service-Learning? As the coordinator of service-learning for the Upper School, that is a question I am often asked. In general, service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection. This enriches the learning experience, teaches civic responsibility, and strengthens students’ academic skills.

The critical difference between service-learning and community service/volunteering is its reciprocal emphasis on students both learning about and addressing real needs in the community. Course materials such as lectures, readings, discussions, and reflection activities supplement the student service. In turn, the service experience is brought back to the classroom to enhance the academic dialogue and student comprehension. Students work on real problems that make academic learning relevant while simultaneously enhancing their social skills, analytical ability, civic and ethical responsibility, self-efficacy, and career development

At its core, service-learning supports all aspects of the York Country Day School mission, similar to our academic curriculum. Service-learning “nurtures the innovative and creative spirit of students as they pursue their intellectual promise,” which is taken directly from the YCDS mission statement. Student are able to combine their personal passions and academic skills to improve their community and world.

Furthermore, student service-learning projects not only benefit the student, but also just as importantly, benefit their community (whether that is the local, school, national or even international community). Thus, “the community helps students ignite their intellectual, social, and civic passions.”

By engaging in their community, “our students are known and valued which allows them to engage as compassionate, bold, and active citizens as they identify a purpose outside of themselves, for the common good, and generate the call to better the world.”

Some examples of current Service Learning Projects are:

Ella White is working with the YORK REFLECTIONS. This organization was created to record and present the history of York race relations with the goal of creating the definitive history of the 1969 York Race Riots and York City race relations in general. Ella is working with the Oral History Coordinator to do academic research and compiling the interviews.

Jessica Babcock, Quenelle McKim, and Chanel Quashie are in the process of creating a student-run tutoring organization at YCDS. This will be an ongoing organization that will allow for peer-led academic support among all grade levels.

Jacob Azriel, Jagr Krtanjek and Sean Evans are creating videos to teach the international community about 3D design and programming robots. These videos are being posted on YouTube via the schools’ FTC YouTube page.

Benja Tatafasa is working with a York Heritage Rail Trail beautification program by examining the problem of trash left along the Rail Trail. He is implementing the placement of trash cans along the route to alleviate this ecological problem.

I am working with a Stacey Fillipone and her group of VidCast students to help LifePath Christian Ministries to plan and create video documentaries of their staff, clients, and programs. These videos will be uploaded to their website to support and help better promote their programs and mission. The following students will be part of the VidCast team: Abigail Miller, Yuki Xu, Jagr Kratanjek, and Michelle Guo