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Making a Difference Through Service Learning

It can be overwhelming to know where and how to make a difference in a world where problems are far-reaching and multifaceted. The King’s School recognises that to equip students with the tools they require to make an outstanding impact on society, education must happen through authentic and tangible service learning experiences. 

A Service Learning program was developed under the leadership ofMrs Astrid Sampson to provide genuine ways to promote and instil School Values in students. Astrid has been a teacher at King’s for 12 years and has enjoyed leadership roles including Mentor, Year Coordinator and Housemaster of Whickham. In 2022 she was appointed Director of Service Learning, with the intent to create a meaningful service learning program that will expand across all three campuses of The King’s School. 

“We aim to have our students learn through action and develop young men and women of integrity, respect, responsibility and compassion. We have established long-term relationships with trusted partners through which we provide genuine, age-appropriate learning opportunities that benefit our students and recipients,” says Astrid.

So far, the School has engaged in local service opportunities that are real and in immediate reach. Students are becoming aware of the local issues and develop a sense of accomplishment and an attitude of service.

“All of our service learning opportunities aspire to build a habit of service in our students. We want our students to understand world issues, develop empathy and break down any misconceptions. We hope to challenge, educate and equip our young men and women to take these habits with them to the world stage,” she adds.

The School seeks to secure long-term partnerships that enable engagement in various projects now and into the future. Current partners include Anglicare, Dignity, Rough Edge, St Vincent de Paul and The Exodus Foundation. The scope of service learning expands across stages, with experiences appropriate to each year level.

“We do not assume that we know how we can be effective. We want our involvement to be a learning experience for the students, but we also want to make valuable contributions to the organisations with which we work. With this in mind, we are led by our partners to determine how we might be of service to them,” says Astrid.  

At the Senior School in 2022, the program predominately involved Year 8 and Year 10 boys, with year 12 Service Learning Monitors appointed to support various programs.

In Year 8, the boys worked closely with St Vincent De Paul by preparing more than 400 lunch packs one Thursday afternoon every month. The lunches were distributed to underprivileged primary school students within a 10-kilometre radius of the North Parramatta campus. 

Year 10 students prepared meals for Vinnies and Dignity by cooking around 190 hearty dinners every month. Not only did they provide a valuable service to the community, but they also learned basic cooking skills. Alongside this, every month five boys in Year 10 had the opportunity to work on the Vinnies Night Patrol Van that distributes food to those in the Mt Druitt and Parramatta areas who are experiencing homelessness. 

“Opening the students’ eyes to real and confronting issues is an important part of Service Learning. Later in the year, Year 10 boys also participated in a Rough Edges urban walk through the streets of Darlinghurst and King’s Cross, where they witnessed homelessness and the complications of living on the street,” Astrid says.

This experience culminated in the Boys to Men Program, where students participated in work placement with the organisations where they learned about the operational side of charities and how they can make a difference to the lives of others. 

In August, the School hosted its first ever Big Sleepout with 110 students participating. This initiative gave the boys a taster of what it’s like to live on the streets for one evening. The students built their own shelters for the night out of cardboard, with plenty of opportunity for the boys to be challenged to think deeply about the issues of homelessness, breakdown misconceptions and experience what it is physically like to sleep rough.

“After a rough night and clean-up, the boys were tired but went home mindful of others who have had to battle different challenges in life. They were grateful they could return to a home and comfy bed,” says Astrid.

The Service Learning program has also found ways to branch out into the curriculum through a long-term project with Anglicare. Students in Visual arts, Tech Club, VET Construction and Agriculture, as well as students from the Prep School are designing and creating a sensory garden for a Foster Care Centre in Sydney. The project should be completed by the end of Term 1 2023, with plans to continue the upkeep and maintenance of the garden into the future.

In 2023 the program will expand to Year 7 and Year 9. Year 7 will be supporting the work of Dignity and will commence a new partnership with Hope in a Suitcase, an organisation that supports children in foster care. These initiatives will require students to not only provide a service but also to reflect on the needs of those less fortunate.

Year 9 will serve at Karonga School, a state school that cares for students with special needs. All students at Karonga have an intellectual disability, with many having additional disabilities and health care needs. Year 9 students will serve at Koranga and will be involved in activities such as water, art and music therapy and help with literacy support.

“We have hit the ground running and are so proud of all we have achieved last year. The program would not be running without the King’s community, especially the staff who have been extraordinary in giving so much of their own time and energy,” says Astrid.

Blaze Aid Flood Relief

In November 2022, approximately 60 students and staff headed west to provide assistance to those affected by the devastating floods. They travelled with a refrigerated truck carrying around 1,800 meals donated by Chartwells and King’s families.

The boys worked alongside BlazeAid, a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia who have been affected by natural disasters.

The relief party helped to rebuild fences and other structures on the properties that were damaged or destroyed. In the town of Cowra, the King’s team set up a mobile cooking unit, providing freshly cooked meals daily.

During the trip, the boys received a surprise visit from Orange MP Tony Mileto in Eugowra. They heard firsthand from members of the King’s community about the effects of flooding and natural disasters on rural regions.

Back home, the School community continued to provide support where possible, with many families, staff and Old Boys donating much-needed funds to support the incredible work of BlazeAid.

The initiative was a wonderful example of The King’s School’s commitment to educating young men of great character, integrity and compassion who make positive contributions for the good of society.

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