By Sheila Ascencio, CAS Coordinator at LIS
Students Thriving During Remote Learning
At Luanda International School, we are committed to fostering compassionate, confident and socially responsible individuals who thrive in the world, and our students’ knowledge, skills and actions continue to reflect that mission through Service Learning (SL) projects, despite the added challenges that we’re facing due to Covid-19.
The success of the projects is not accidental, but is the result of a lot of planning and thoughtful work. The Core Team (Creativity-Activity-Service, Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay) begins each year with an experiential-based Core Retreat, where students are placed in real-life contexts, situations, and experiences that force them to learn about needs and issues that communities face. We plan these experiences with clear intentions and deliberately and explicitly teach skills that set our students up for success. This, coupled with focused SL sessions on Cathryn Berger Kaye’s SL cycle and action research’s MISO methodology, prepare our students to embark on well identified projects that give students complete agency.
Masking Angola is an excellent example of how our students have found a way to continue to utilize their knowledge, skills, and passion for SL even during remote learning.
Masking Angola was born when a group of five senior students identified a need in a local community in Luanda, Angola. After informally chatting with a nurse, they learned that the resident of the Camama area did not have masks, and soap, let alone hand sanitizer. The students swiftly began to work on the investigation stage by assessing that identified need and beginning their action research. This valuable information allowed them to move on to the preparation stage, where they collaborated to develop an action plan to meet their goal, clarified their roles and responsibilities within the team, identified resources, and formed partnerships. At this point, the team had set two goals: one, to raise funds to purchase soap, hand sanitizers, and cloth to make masks; and two, to provide the resources to educate the community on the proper hand-washing technique and the importance of social distancing.
The team collaborated with a former teacher and independent graphic designer, Hannah Hendrickson (HRH), who also wanted to support communities struggling with Covid-19. This partnership was reciprocal, where both the students and partner collaborated and learned from one another. Masking Angola provided context, knowledge on the community, and creative ideas while HRH designed t-shirts to fundraise and coached the team on the power of graphic design and how to best utilize it.
The action stage involved implementing their plan via indirect service. They continued collaborating with HRH and building on their understanding of the Camama community. Based on the knowledge they gained, they designed posters for the community aimed to encourage hand washing and social distancing. During this action stage, students also identified a second partner, Roque Online (RO), an Angolan based independent business with a strong commitment to social responsibility. RO collaborated closely with the students to obtain soap and hand sanitizers. And recently, an Angolan/Portuguese company contacted Masking Angola looking to expand their project to other provinces and communities in Angola.
The reflection and demonstration stage have been alive throughout the project. Students regularly reflect on the process, challenges, successes, skills needed to be developed, collaboration, and more! Reflection informs their project and allows them to continue growing as learners. The Masking Angola team has been demonstrating their process by capturing and sharing their contributions with LIS and the wider community via social media.
To me, as an educator, I see service learning as the “so what?” in education. SL provides learners with opportunities that transcend walls and disciplines. Despite the barriers that come with a pandemic and learning remotely, students at LIS continue to find great success and to see opportunities in challenges.