By Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School“If salvation and help are to come, it is from the child, for the child is the constructor of man and so of society. The child is endowed with an inner power which can guide us to a more enlightened future.”
– Maria Montessori
…Where community service meets experiential learning
This holiday season, we take a moment at Inly to give thanks for family, friends, and community, and we look for ways to contribute to others from this place of abundance. We teach our students that service to others and developing an understanding of ourselves in relationship to the larger community and the world, are central to personal development and fulfillment.
The seeds of our service-learning curriculum are sown in our toddler program, take root and grow through each level of the school and extend into our alumni community. At the heart of this curriculum is Maria Montessori’s mandate to empower children to become agents of change, and Inly School’s mission to create global citizens. The goal of the service work we do at all levels at Inly is to promote the development of lifelong lessons in empathy, hard work, and cultural awareness, while giving students a sense of belonging to a community.
Service learning defined
“Service learning is a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies or other type of intentional learning activity,” according to the National Service-Learning Partnership. At Inly School, service learning begins with the question, “How can I be of service?” and calls each student to identify and develop their personal talents, abilities, and interests and use them to meet the needs of another. Self-reflection, an awareness of the needs around oneself, education about those needs, an understanding of how one’s actions can make a difference, and a willingness to extend oneself in service are all involved in this process.
As you walk the halls at Inly, you see examples of service everyday. Our Toddler and Children’s House Preschool students learn to recognize the needs of others and to offer help and support through our formalized grace and courtesy curriculum. In Lower Elementary, our students are coming to understand our shared needs as humans through their study of fundamental needs. As this academic understanding takes root, our literature and writing curriculum, class meetings, and informal discussions lead us to deeper empathy, connection, and service driven by the central question, “How do I recognize when another’s fundamental needs are not being met, and how can I be of service?”
In Upper Elementary, students go out into the community through a formal service learning program that takes place each Friday. Students work with, among others, the North and South River Watershed Association and Holly Hill Farm to ground them more deeply in their understanding of stewardship of natural resources. Students visit community members in assisted living facilities (like the Life Care Center of Scituate, pictured above) and work in our Toddler House program to be of service to, and to gain an authentic appreciation for fellow humans at all stages of development.
In Middle School, our students hone their skill of independently recognizing ways to be of service, and they commit to completing 20 hours of service each year as a part of their program of study. This year, with the support of the Parent Steering Committee, a group of Middle School students launched the school-wide Pennies for Paws initiative to support the work of the Scituate Animal Shelter. Again, this year, our graduating 8th graders and high school alumni will have the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to participate in a two-week service-learning program.
As you spend this winter break with family and friends, we encourage you to keep this conversation alive with your children. Support them in recognizing the needs of others, create the opportunity for them to give from a sense of abundance, reflect on the connection we all share as humans, and celebrate together that most precious gift of relationship.