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LeeAnne Lavender

Engaging Students and the Community in Meaningful Service

As a school, Concordia intentionally looks for ways to extend service opportunities across disciplines and divisions, engaging students of all ages and the community at large. Service learning is an educational tool for accomplishing our Expected Student Learning Results (ESLRs), helping students become insightful learners, principle-centered leaders and active global citizens. Through service projects, students are exposed to authentic opportunities to understand and address the needs of others and world around them using the knowledge and skills that they learn.

Service learning at Concordia is carried out within a cycle that includes investigation and research, leading to preparation, leading to action, and including thoughtful reflection by students throughout the process. As students learn more about issues that plague our world, they are asked to consider the lives and situations of others. Through the reflection process, which encourages thoughtful discussions with their peers, students look for ways to offer support or raise awareness about local or global issues.

The focus of a recent service learning project centered around a precious, yet finite resource—water. For two months, students in all divisions were investigating the scarcity of clean water in places around the world, including sub-Saharan Africa.

Discovering that almost 60 per cent of people in South Sudan do not have access to clean water, students were stirred to action. They thought about ways to experience what it might be like for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa who walk an average of six kilometers each day to obtain water.

Thus, springing out of classroom learning came a student-led event called the Concordia Community Water Walk. Over 1300 participants walked in shifts for 8 hours carrying buckets of water around the Concordia track to raise awareness and support for those burdened by a scarcity of clean water.

Everyone from pre-schoolers to grade 12 students, teachers, administrators and parents came out to experience walking with water. After completing only a portion of this distance, participants were amazed and expressed a deep empathy for their global brothers and sisters who must complete this arduous task every day.

Students learned about a pressing need in our world, cultivated empathy for those living with the hardships as a result of that need, and responded with generous and loving hearts.

The learning continues as students now focus on water access in China and on developing a sustainable, long-term partnership with the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation and its work with water and sanitation in rural Yunnan.

As a cohesive, school-wide service learning experience, it has been powerful to engage in an investigation of water access this year and we’re excited about the ways in which students will continue to respond to what they have learned.