Service Learning Takes Students to Cape Eleuthera
Katharina Elberti ’12 jumps at the chance to participate in just about every outdoor education trip Key offers. But it was her summer excursion to Cape Eleuthera, on Key’s first-ever Bahamas Service and Paddle Trip, that introduced her to the service aspect of outdoor education.
To Katharina’s surprise, it was the service portion of the trip that she most enjoyed. “The kayaking was fun,” she said. “But on the service portion of the trip, we got to work with the people who know the island best and I liked that part better because of those interactions.”
Accompanied by Outdoor Education Head Brian Michaels, teacher Dan Schoos, and veteran Outdoor Education teacher Lee Schreitz ’70, twelve Upper School students participated in the twelve-day trip, which combined an international community service project with a five-day sea-kayaking adventure. Key partnered with Cape Eleuthera’s Island School, located on one of the underdeveloped outer-islands of the Bahamas, for the week-long service portion of the expedition during which students worked alongside Bahamians to restore the local firehouse, paint the deck of the mission house where they were staying, and install drywall in preparation for the 2012 opening of a community arts center.
“Service learning is a natural extension of Key’s outdoor education program,” explained Mr. Michaels. “Hands-on, experiential learning, respecting yourself and others, and respecting the environment are tenets of our program that go hand-in-hand with service principles.
By working directly with local Bahamians in an authentic experience, our group this summer felt the value of helping others.”
Encouraging students from Pre-School though Upper School to actively engage in service efforts has long been a part of Key School’s mission. Service learning opportunities not only enable students to do good but also help them develop a commitment to volunteerism. In addition to striving to meet the needs of others, students invest in an examination and identification of the need—which often includes an academic component—ensuring a meaningful experience for all.
Key has long been a proponent of the service learning model, which philosophically aligns with the School’s emphasis on interdisciplinary teaching. “Kids are naturally passionate about causes. Community service experiences and service learning projects are even more powerful when they have connections to what the children are studying elsewhere in school,” said Middle School Division Head Dave Magnus.
That was certainly true for Katharina and her peers this summer. In their five days of service on Cape Eleuthera, it was conversations about much more than paint and drywall that left a lasting impression.
“Every night we had a closing circle and talked about what we did that day,” Katharina said. “We were shocked at the work they trusted us to do. We were given a lot of responsibility for things that really mattered to the community and it felt really good to be trusted like that…to know you made a difference in the lives of others.”
From The Key Review - Fall 2011