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Service before self: creating empathetic and responsible individuals

by Anusha Chauhan, Coordinator

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Anusha Chauhan, Service as Action coordinator at DPS International in Gurgaoan, India, shares how small actions of good deeds and thoughts of DPSI IB students add up to create empathetic, responsible and responsive young individuals who aim to create a more optimistic future and a world that promises equal opportunities for all.

DPS International (DPIS), Gurgaon, is an IB continuum school that promotes the idea of service in every student from the Primary Years Programme (PYP). In keeping with the ethos of the school, ‘Service Before Self’, small actions of good deeds and thoughts of our students add up to create empathetic, responsible and responsive young individuals who aim to create a more optimistic future and a world that promises equal opportunities for all.

As students move into the Middle Years Programme (MYP), we offer them more challenging options to explore this segment of the curriculum. Integrating Service as Action in the IB curriculum is perhaps the most enriching and satisfying component for young minds in the MYP. By engaging them in activities that encourage them to look out for the needs of others, beyond their immediate circle of interactions, gradually shapes their identity as an IB learner.

The fact that this is not a graded activity makes it even more important for the students to take this seriously on a voluntary basis. This can only happen if the right environment is offered to them not only in classrooms but in every aspect of their school lives. They are encouraged to look for opportunities to identify the needs of the community, formulate action plans to fulfil those needs (at a local, and also at a global, level) and then reflect on their role and overall learning through this experience. Their reflections invariably include a sense of achievement and increased self-worth while overcoming challenges and successfully completing their projects.

Most service projects in MYP stem from the students’ classroom learning. The process of identifying any such possibility is left entirely to the students who then discuss the planning and execution of their idea with a mentor-every teacher at DPSI is a service project mentor, well equipped with the understanding of the requirements of this programme. The kind of project they choose should ideally be suited to their abilities or their willingness to challenge themselves to develop new skills. Through the year, students engage in various projects that target different communities – people, animals, environment – and cover issues on education, spreading awareness, advocating change or growth to name a few.

As a culmination to this year long effort, students then showcase their learning with their fellow students and the parent community. This display offers them a platform to exchange learning with their peers, opening up more avenues for them to explore in the future.

Some examples of the SA projects on display this year (click to enlarge photos):

Conservation of local birds and disappearance of birds as an indicator of climate change

Zoya not only founded The Young Birders’ Club for enthusiastic and budding ornithologists but created awareness in her neighbourhood, on the importance of creating a bird friendly environment in this concrete city. She took this further by creating a petition on this issue and garnered support from the Residential Welfare Association to allow the club’s operations in the locality. She initiated bird trails and created art works.

Her project was a result of her learning from science lessons as well as her experience at one of the school camps where she first learned to spot local birds.

Zoya's chart on the project - her aim, prior experience, effect and reflection
Collage of pictures showing Zoya and her friends at work
Names of the birds on the trail
Zoya's final reflection

Harmful effects of nicotine – cancer prevention awareness

A lesson in science class on harmful effects of nicotine led Kabier to explore just how aware the general public, smokers and non-smokers, is aware of the extent of damage nicotine and tobacco addiction can cause.

He interviewed several segments of the community to acquire credible as well as assumptive responses. This helped him create his own awareness campaign for the target community of smokers and tobacco consumers, some of whom needed more than mere persuasion. He backed up his research with data and also created a poster for the hospital that he had been visiting during the course of his project.

Kabier's description and goals for his project
Kabier directly communicating with the target community
Kabier's poster for his initiative

Animal Rescue App

An animal lover, the sight of injured and diseased strays always bothered Ansh, primarily because he didn’t know whom to reach out for help. He realised that even though there were organisations in his city that catered to the need of strays, the general public was largely unaware.

He created a solution by creating an android app that would allow any smart phone user to reach an animal welfare organisation in the vicinity to rescue/help the stray..  He used the skills acquired from lessons in Digital Design to create the application using MIT App Inventor.

The app, Animal Rescue App, is available on Google Play.

Ansh's poster, advertising "Animal Rescue App"

Many of our students take their projects forward by either choosing to add more challenging elements for the coming year or address the issues using a larger platform. Almost every student feels an increased sense of worth, a surge in confidence levels and deep satisfaction. The SA program in the MYP proves that one is never too young to make a positive difference.

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