Middle School Embraces Service Learning

Two years ago, the Middle School embarked on a journey to move from Community Service to a Service Learning model as a meaningful part of three-year student experience.

“Our goal has been to take service to the next level by supporting our faculty to embed a world problem within their curricula so that the student experience is deeper, more informed and hopefully more meaningful,” Middle School Director Carrie Green explained. 

Last year, math teacher Laurie Chandler was named the Middle School's first Service Learning Coordinator. "Ms. Chandler's steady and collaborative leadership has been key to implementing service learning in the Middle School," Ms. Green said. "She has definitely taken our program to new heights!"

The program's launch was also facilitated by a two-day, in-person training with Cathy Berger Kaye, a national leader in service learning. In September, Ms. Kaye led the entire Middle School faculty in an exploration of best practices in service learning and participated in brainstorming sessions for grade-level programs.

“I’m so impressed with our faculty and what they’ve built this year,” Ms. Green said. “We look forward to building on this success and the lessons learned as we continue creating a robust Service Learning curriculum in the KDS Middle School.”

Keep reading below to learn more about each grade level’s service learning activities this year.

Reflecting on their theme for this year, 6th graders incorporated Service Learning to better understand the issue of food insecurity. Over the course of the year, students participated in numerous activities to understand this global issue and respond on a local level. 
“Service Learning is taking away from a one-off experience and building it into the life of our school,” Middle School Service Learning Coordinator Laurie Chandler said. 
This year’s Service Learning events included baking pies for the Thanksgiving holiday for Capitol Hill Community Services, playing a Kent Denver version of The Price is Right as a way to discuss food prices, and watching A Place at the Table, a documentary about food insecurity.  All of their studies culminated in a final Service Learning Day project, as they partnered with Integrated Family Community Services (IFCS) and sorted through 700 pounds of food for the IFCS pantry. Sixth graders also helped publicize the spring community food drive for IFCS, hanging posters throughout campus and making announcements in Upper and Middle School assemblies.
Focusing on Equity, the 7th Grade team integrated Service Learning in their English classrooms as a way to bring their curriculum to life. Throughout the fall, winter and spring, students took what they learned through studying Everything Sad is Untrue and Just Mercy and applied it through real-world experiences.
Reflecting on Everything Sad is Untrue, students heard refugee stories from representatives of the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau. Students also created an art installation of their reflections written in a symbolic refugee tent, humanizing the refugee experience. 
Further examining Just Mercy’s themes of injustice and what we can do when we see injustice, the entire 7th grade class visited Denver organizations that are taking action. The Denver Art Museum, Denver Office of Social Equity, Denver Justice Center and Tepeyac Community Health Center allowed students to see how injustice in our community is addressed and explore the organizations aiming to make a change.
“Linking Service Learning to the English curriculum has made reading a transformative process. As a result of their Service Learning experience, our students see themselves as changemakers,” Casey Selover said. “They have a greater understanding of themselves and their community that shapes their worldview and the choices they make.” 

8th graders started Service Learning with an introduction to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for a healthy future of the world community. Over the course of the year, students researched world challenges and made note of organizations working towards the goal of solving or mitigating global issues. 
Recently, learning about the humanitarian crisis resulting from Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been a key area of focus. The students took action by assembling kits of basic medical and personal hygiene supplies for Ukrainian families. In the end, the 8th graders assembled enough kits for 40 families, which were then dropped off at the Project CURE warehouse to be loaded on the next medical supply shipment to Ukraine.
"There is definitely a time for discussion and reflection; there is also a time for action, to try to make a real difference,” said Christopher Michaud, who helped lead the Ukrainian aid kit project, dubbed ‘Kits for Kids’ by Project Cure. “Author Peter Senge argues that classrooms should be ‘launching pads’ into the real world, and this is where service learning is at its best.” 


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