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As Cathryn Berger Kaye will tell you, Service Learning is a powerful educational approach and tool to equip students and teachers alike to be engaged and action-oriented global citizens. As an international education consultant offering award-winning expertise in Service Learning and engaging teaching methods, Cathy has played a leading role in shaping IB pedagogy and philosophy. 

A champion of Service Learning, she also understands that implementing Service Learning in the classroom can be challenging, especially for educators who are expected to integrate it across the IB curriculum.  To help educators feel empowered rather than overwhelmed by this tool, Cathryn and her fellow consultants, LeeAnne Lavender and Shei Ascencio, have developed a Service Learning course for educators

In this course, teachers can expect to learn about the dynamic Five Stages of Service Learning and how to apply its concepts and strategies to their classroom. They will also have access to a collection of curated and valuable resources and receive guidance from experienced facilitators. Moreover, they will have the opportunity to join a community of passionate and knowledgeable Service Learning educators to share insights and ideas.

To better understand what the course can offer, we spoke to Cathryn Berger Kaye about how these tools can transform teaching and empower educators to give students a framework that will serve them into university and beyond. 

Thanks for joining us, Cathy! You have been a leading voice in the Service Learning community for a long time. What inspired you to offer this course now? 

I work with an incredible team of consultants, and in a collaborative spirit, we decided to create a course that can help educators embed Service Leaning into their school’s philosophy. Whether participants are new to the field or more advanced, this course gives them the tools to assist students in shaping and designing their learning experience to become engaged citizens. 

My colleagues and I understand that meaningful Service Learning advances other priorities in the school and can benefit the whole school community. So, when I work with a school or teacher, I ask, “What are your priorities?” From there, we can tailor the Service Learning approach according to their response—be that social-emotional learning, interdisciplinary learning, or advancing academic content. We support these goals by helping educators build long-term partnerships and relationships within the school community.

Many IB educators struggle to find service opportunities that go beyond simple volunteering and provide a path for students to engage in meaningful work that contributes to the community’s well-being. How do you help teachers find local opportunities?

We offer teachers resources to show their students how issues operate on both a local and global level. In addition to strategies for embedding the UN SDGs in everyday teaching and learning, we guide teachers in showing students how to do their own meaningful and effective research. Following our MISO method, students can explore issues that matter to them and discover their own opportunities. 

Can you say more about MISO?

The MISO Method of Action Research that I originated is my go-to tool to help students during the Service Learning pedagogy investigation stage. Representing ‘media, interview, survey, and observation,’ it serves as a reminder to students that research is more than just a Google search. It is re-looking and adding to the body of knowledge based on new examination. Consulting multiple sources of information by following the MISO methodology is an efficient way to construct a new understanding of a topic. MISO also helps students organize their inquiries. They decide which of their questions would be best answered by the media, an interview, a survey, or an observation. 

Once students map out all the issues they want to engage with and areas where they wish to effect change, they can find connections and determine the best place to start. 

In addition to teaching frameworks and strategies like MISO, how does your program address the unique needs and challenges of IB teachers?

One of the main benefits of this program is that it offers a space for dialogue. Since every teacher and every school is unique, we have created the space here to personalize the content while pooling resources, skills, and knowledge. We aim to help teachers see that by collaborating with other educators, community partners, and students, we can create Service Learning projects that are more impactful and meaningful for all involved. We aim to create a learning environment that allows students to appreciate their knowledge. This empowers them to feel more empowered and engaged in their Service Learning projects.

The Service Learning concepts and strategies we provide also support signature elements that are part of the IB program, including the extended essay, ToK, and, of course, CAS. 

What kind of tools does the course offer teachers to ensure that Service Learning projects are sustainable and have a lasting impact on the community being served?

We believe that by incorporating Service Learning into our overall approach to teaching, we can create a culture of service and social responsibility that extends beyond individual projects and becomes a fundamental part of our educational philosophy. 

This includes aligning Service Learning projects with the curriculum and learning goals, encouraging students to take ownership of their projects, and developing the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective and engaged citizens. It is also essential that we introduce students to these concepts early in their education. Children are highly motivated and driven to engage in social justice and community issues from a young age. They crave a sense of purpose and direction and are curious and passionate about issues that matter.

By making Service Learning an integral part of their educational experience, we can inspire and empower students to see that the school is not just an isolated entity and that they can become agents of positive change in their communities and beyond.

How do you address any potential ethical concerns or challenges that may arise during service learning projects?

This is a great question, and we offer many well-curated resources that can help teachers address the particular social and cultural challenges they face. One essential tool is the development of partnerships with community organizations, which can provide ongoing support and guidance for the project. This allows for a deeper understanding of the community’s assets and needs, so we can ensure the project is aligned with long-term goals.

We also train teachers to encourage students to consider the potential impacts of their actions and engage in thoughtful discussion about their project’s ethical implications and assumptions. Everyone holds biases, and we want to offer a safe place for students to understand and overcome their own. 

How do you begin discussing implicit bias in an approachable way with students?

Language defines cultures. We start by unpacking words we often hear when discussing Service Learning, like “help” and “community.” Then, we dig deeper and ask, “What does it mean to offer help?” “What kind of power structures are set up?” and “How does our privilege impact the dynamics at play?”

In considering issues of power and privilege in Service Learning projects, we help students see nuance. For example, they might realize that a community they thought of as disenfranchised actually contains its own unique sources of power and meaning. 

We want to open that door of inquiry so students can go through it and feel empowered to continue learning and exploring. 

Thanks to Cathy and her team for offering so many valuable resources and creating accessible solutions to make Service Learning an integral part of our school communities! 

If you are an educator who wants to promote Service Learning and global citizenship in your school, you can learn more about the course offered by Cathy and her team here. You can register for the course individually or as a group and gain access to a wealth of resources and tools to help you implement Service Learning in your curriculum.