Service Learning and Global Citizenship: Foundations Built in 2021-22

by LeeAnne Lavender, OLu Service Learning & Global Citizenship Partner


The 2021/22 school year provided some exciting opportunities for teachers and students at Orange Lutheran High School to learn, connect, grow and heal after the challenges presented by Covid in 2020/21. 


For four teachers and hundreds of OLu students, a purposeful partnership allowed new learning to occur in the realms of service learning and global citizenship, laying a foundation for deep student engagement and learning this year and into the future. 


I am a coach and facilitator, and I work with educators worldwide to create learning experiences that have impact: impact on learners, on communities, on creating sustainable mindsets for service and sustainable living. 


In 2021-22, I partnered with OLu US history teacher Jen Brenner, Marine Biology teacher Sherry Shook, and Missions teachers Jessica Heim and Drianna Litton. 


US History with Ms. Brenner

In Ms. Brenner’s US history classes in semester 1, we focused on embedding specific learning activities related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and introduced the students to MISO, an action research tool of the service learning cycle. 



MISO stands for media, interviews, surveys, and observations and allows students to conduct authentic and original research (beyond Google searches and online reading/viewing). US history students learned how to conduct a MISO interview and, in learning about migration in US history, interviewed a community member who had experienced a significant move or transition. 


US history students also connected Sustainable Development Goal #3 (Good Health and Well-Being) to content about the Progressive era in US history. They contemplated what it meant to be progressive and how this connected to their health and well-being. They reflected on what it might look like to be progressive with their own habits and behaviors, and if they might be able to achieve a more balanced and positive sense of personal health and well-being. 


The goal with Ms. Brenner’s class was to embed some “bite-sized” global citizenship learning experiences to units that were already planned cohesively and effectively, demonstrating that teachers can take existing units and add a global citizenship lens by adapting or adjusting lessons or assignments. 


Marine Biology with Ms. Shook

Ms. Shook teaches two blocks of marine biology as a Hyflex class. In this learning model, students combine in-class learning with independent learning time, and throughout the year they learn about many aspects of oceans. This includes physical aspects of oceans (salinity, currents, tides, plate tectonics, buoyancy, sediments and so much more) as well as ocean wildlife (migrations in the sea, plankton, animal phyla, mollusks, arthropods, reptiles and seabirds). Students go on some field trips such as a kayaking day and a whale-watching day. This is a fascinating and interactive course!


To embed a service learning experience into the marine biology experience this year, Ms. Shook and I designed a new summative end-of-year experience where students could synthesize learning from the course and connect that learning to community needs related to marine conversation. They experienced a full-service learning cycle (including the five stages of investigation, planning, action, demonstration and reflection), and were able to identify needs in the Orange Lutheran community that connected to protecting our planet’s oceans. 


Students worked in groups to ideate about aspects of life at OLu that connect to the knowledge and skills gleaned in marine biology. They identified issues such as single-use plastics in the school cafeteria (as plastics are a major concern for the health of our oceans) and a lack of knowledge about marine conversation (from broad messages of advocacy for the oceans to specific campaigns like understanding local tide pools). Groups created a wide range of action plans to do things like: 


  • advocate about the impact of eating seafood
  • reduce litter in the community
  • limit single-use plastics used on campus
  • raise awareness about local tide pools
  • research alternatives to plastics and promote these using social media and digital storytelling
  • research the impact of hand dryers versus paper towels in school bathrooms to achieve more sustainable practices
  • teach third-grade students at a nearby school about marine conservation
  • experiment with more sustainable personal lifestyle choices and share these using digital storytelling
  • investigate more sustainable approaches to school sports and PE uniforms


Students had just under three weeks to enact their action plans. Some groups ran into challenges and roadblocks and had to pivot during this time; others were able to forge straight towards their goals. All students were able to reflect on what went well and what they learned about themselves, their community, and what it means to be a changemaker. 


Service learning is a way for students to take knowledge and skills in any unit in any class and connect these to community assets and needs. It helps students see the relevance of what they are learning, and to feel equipped to learn more and act in response to pressing community needs (local and global). 


You can learn more about specific student learning experiences in marine biology HERE

Missions with Ms. Heim and Ms. Litton

Students taking Missions at OLu wrap up their year with a summative Compassion Project. This is a long-standing tradition and offers students a chance to synthesize their learning related to the theme of the class (in 2021/22 the theme has been poverty alleviation and community development). Themes from previous years include cultural intelligence, global communication, social justice, ecological responsibility and vocation. 


IOLu Missions Interview Handoutn past years students have chosen an issue they are passionate about in relation to the theme of the class. Working in groups, they did additional research and interviews and then made 10-minute presentations to their peers in class. 


I had the pleasure of working with this year’s Missions teachers, Ms. Jessica Heim and Ms. Drianna Litton, in redesigning this existing learning experience and summative assessment. We used the foundation of what they had built, and added service learning to the mix. Students engaged in a full-service learning cycle and design thinking process, and their action plans became the focus of the experience. Their final presentations in class became more informal, with students demonstrating what they did and learned in digital storytelling products that could be shared with the community. 


“Service learning gave us the language and tools to expand what we wanted our students to do,” comments Ms. Litton. “Missions is an interactive, relational class and we want our students to develop a passion for service, and knowledge about what it means to do service well.”


Using the theme of poverty alleviation and community development, students worked in groups this year to identify community assets and needs related to this theme and to what they had learned throughout the year. From there, they designed action plans that included things like this: 


  • creating a website to advocate for shopping locally and supporting local businesses and farms
  • hosting a small banquet for community members living in poverty in partnership with Presley Ministries/Calvary Church
  • partnering with a grade 4 class at Salem Lutheran School to teach a class and work with younger learners
  • curate resources about mental and emotional well-being for teens


You can learn about the work that the Missions students did this year HERE


Looking Ahead

Based on the three types of experiences that we prototyped in 2021/22 at OLu (embedding global citizenship learning activities, creating a new summative service learning unit, and redesigning a summative assessment to include a service learning cycle), it is exciting to think about how these experiences will spark more deep learning in 2022/23 and beyond. 


In this school year, I will be able to partner with teachers in the English department to design digital storytelling and global citizenship experiences and with the Visual/Media Arts department to design a new academy rooted in student leadership and global citizenship. I will be able to continue my partnership with the Missions team, embedding digital storytelling and global citizenship mindsets into the annual trip to Appalachia, and supporting a new vision for the Vocation personal project for 2022/23. 


Working with OLu teachers, leaders, and students is a joy, and I am deeply moved by the passion of many in the OLu community to engage in big ideas about global issues and to explore what it means to serve others with love and compassion. 

Topics from this blog: Academics Community Missions Service