St. Thomas School has a long tradition of service to the community. Service-learning provides experiential opportunities for students to exercise their critical thinking and leadership skills. Through investigating, understanding, and bringing their service to the needs of their community, our students gain empathy, develop character, and broaden their spiritual dimension of their lives. Its ultimate goal is to create students with an ethic of life-long service to their communities, society, and the world.
In the last few years there has been a movement across the country recognizing that there are critical skills for the 21st century that encompass not merely traditional academic areas such as math and science, but leadership, character, ethics, and team work as well. Service-learning is a process and a way of thinking that needs to be explicitly modeled and taught, and St. Thomas School is uniquely positioned to do this. As technology brings the global community closer and closer together, and the challenges that the world faces increasingly belong to us all, the importance of social and environmental responsibility and the instilling of the ethic of service will remain key components of leadership.
At STS, students work closely with their teachers to structure service learning activities. These are usually closely connected to the grade level curriculum, although occasionally teachers and students “seize the moment” to respond to the needs of their local and global communities. Students in the upper grades coordinate service learning experiences for the entire school, implementing a few school-wide initiatives each year. These students take on significant leadership and organization, conducting research, communicating with the school and the broader community, organizing the myriad of details, and evaluating their results.
Service-learning is used in a structured way to connect classroom content, literature, and skills with community needs. As a result, students:
- Apply academic, social, and personal skills to improve the community.
- Make decisions that have real, not hypothetical, results
- Grow as individuals, gain respect for peers, and increase civic participation.
- Experience success no matter what their ability level.
- Gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their community, and society.
- Develop as leaders who take initiative, solve problems, work as a team, and demonstrate their abilities while and through helping others.