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Service learning allows students to move beyond the classroom walls into a real-world learning experience that can have impact not only on the students themselves, but on the larger community. This is one of the goals of the Middle Years Programme Community Project, which all Mackintosh Littleton eighth graders complete in their final year at Mackintosh Academy.

According to Washington University, “Service learning refers to learning that actively involves students in a wide range of experiences, which often benefit others and the community, while also advancing the goals of a given curriculum. Community-based service activities are paired with structured preparation and student reflection.”

This year’s eighth graders chose a variety of projects that reflected their own interests as well as the needs of the communities they served. Whether working with Ethiopian adoptees, food-insecure communities, or rescue kittens, they were able to fulfill the aims of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years projects, to encourage and enable students to:

  • participate in a sustained, self-directed inquiry within a global context
  • generate creative new insights and develop deeper understandings through in-depth investigation
  • demonstrate the skills, attitudes and knowledge required to complete a project over an extended period of time
  • communicate effectively in a variety of situations
  • demonstrate responsible action through, or as a result of, learning to appreciate the process of learning and take pride in their accomplishments.

Faculty mentors shepherded the students through the process of selecting a project, doing background research, and writing a research paper that included a formal bibliography of works cited.

The heart of these service learning projects was, of course, the fifteen or more hours of direct service that the students were required to perform. This allowed the students to connect with members of the communities they served and have a direct sense of how their work impacted others.

  • The MYP community projects included:
  • creating a nonprofit mentoring organization Wodaj for Ethiopian adoptees in Colorado and building a website for the group
  • volunteering at Break Bread Littleton, an organization that builds meaningful relationships among neighbors through a free weekly community meal
  • fostering kittens with Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue
  • working at the GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace, and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood

The eighth graders presented their projects to the entire school at an assembly, inspiring younger students with their commitment and hard work. All of them reported that the community project had been a beneficial experience: one student shared that this project “helped me come out of my shell and talk to people,” while another said,”This is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

As a key part of Mackintosh Academy’s International Baccalaureate curriculum, service learning opportunities such as the Middle Years community project provide students the chance to make an impact on the world – right here, right now!