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The Think Global, Act Local ethos is a philosophical cornerstone of CAS and is well-integrated into our approach at CAS Trips. Along with the overall mission of fostering inquiry, knowledge, and empathy in students, all our Service Learning and community engagement initiatives are indeed about building mutual and reciprocal partnerships. As a result, we are always looking for examples of schools and teachers who are able to mobilize community action and make a real impact in their local surroundings. 

Therefore, it is our pleasure to share a success story from SCIS, an international school in Shanghai. A recent project, ‘Community Voices,’ absolutely hit the mark in bolstering local community engagement and empowering student action. To further understand how the project came together, we heard from SAA and CAS Coordinator, John Haakon Gould, and other school community members. 

The Foundation of the Project

Of course, any successful project relies on the right mix of ingredients going into preparation. John explained the foundation of their CAS program and how they help students prepare for Service Learning projects, “Through a series of advisory sessions, students take time to reflect on their own personal inventory and that of their peers. They develop an appreciation for what they are interested in, their areas of strength, and areas where they would like to grow. 

The continuum of lessons we offer is constantly revised, but the ultimate goal is always to have students understand the core tenants of Service Learning while exploring issues they are passionate about and inspiring them to take action.”

Community Action
Photo by Ian Schneider via Unsplash

Community Voices

In the case of the Community Voices project, Tamara Afanasyeva, MYP English Language and Literature Teacher, outlined how she was able to extend a unit in her class on the ‘Hero’s Journey’ to get to know members of the local community and ultimately realize change in how students interact with school staff and members. 

“Our unit began by looking at what it means to be a hero in literature, including different characteristics and narratives. As we progressed, though, students started to wonder about who are the heroes in everyday life.”

Prompting the students to look at one specific community and apply their inquiry, Tamara encouraged a close-to-home approach by suggesting that students make a list of people in the school community they would like to get to know better. 

“We used the model of a ‘big talk,’ generating comprehensive, thought-provoking questions. We then went about the process of interviewing the people who we live and work with every day — but maybe do not actually know very well.”

Ultimately, the students wrote up their interviews and recorded them, so other school community members could use QR codes to discover the unique stories and experiences of those around them. 

Elevating the Stories and Experiences of Others 

Teaching young people the value of sharing stories and appreciating that there is something to be learned from everyone is an invaluable lesson to grasp at a young age. As John explained, “At its core, this is an experience about listening, about connecting, and about elevating voices. Every community member has a story and something to share that can ultimately be connected across disciplines and subject areas. This is what makes a community school.” 

Developing Global Citizens 

Knowing they have the backing of a robust support system at school can be a real game-changer in giving students the confidence and conviction to follow their passions. As the ultimate goal of all their CAS activities, John summarized, “We strive for our young changemakers to become self-directed. It starts with unlocking their curiosity and channeling that energy into inquiry and knowledge building, to help them understand their broader responsibility to a wider global community.”

We could not agree more! A big thank you to SCIS for sharing this CAS inspiration. You can find out more about the Community Voices project here

Cover photo by Vonecia Carswell via Unsplash.