Heritage Xperiential Learning School is a learning community that approaches both ‘learning’ and ‘community’ with equal commitment. For us, community service begins with engagement with the community. Our goal is to first help students build a sense of what community means. For us, service projects do not merely mean going to an old age home for a visit once in a year. It is about engaging with the larger community about issues that impact our lives and those of others. It is about environment, governance, human rights and equally our duties. Our curriculum itself provides multiple contexts for students to engage with. We have projects and themes, for all programs through the year, to actively engage students in social service.
Every single project undertaken at our school—whether one or six months long—has service as the larger purpose. Canvassing for a cycle path in the city, making a presentation to parents on the need for conservation of resources, running an audit of the school’s utilisation of energy, working with villages on their issues as a community, organising events for and tutoring underprivileged students, giving away cycles to the labourers in neighbouring construction sites, and weaving and knitting clothes for slum children are some examples of our work that we think is far more engaging and impactful than occasional one-off community service trip.
The academic year 2016-17 saw 46 citizenship projects being undertaken by our students. As many as 2,248 students across junior, middle and senior programmes were involved in citizenship projects, either as part of the course work or through yearlong clubs and societies, adding to a total of 77,400 man hours of community service.
The school also launched the Heritage Centre for Active Citizenship in 2016 as an effort to pass the torch of active and responsible citizenship to each succeeding generation whilst imparting the language of citizenship in the way we learn, discuss, debate, advocate and act on local, national and global issues. Along the way, it hopes to build capacities of students – attitudes, skills, knowledge and frameworks of action and advocacy – needed to be engaged, active and informed citizens.
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