At Friday’s Year 11 Prize Giving, we honoured a large number of students for their academic achievements and their commitment to a host of different co-curricular activities. This year, we also recognised an extraordinary number of students for their commitment to community service.
Twenty-five students were presented with Higher Honours Certificates for completing well over three times the 30 hours of community service that Year 11 students are expected to complete throughout the year, with one girl actually completing a staggering 379 hours of service.
Social researcher Claire Madden believes that members of Generation Z (to which our current Year 11 students belong) are motivated by purpose and wanting to collaborate, contribute and make a difference. This certainly seems to be the case with our students.
We are incredibly proud of their commitment to community service. Adolescence is the key time for the development of social skills, and participation in community service provides opportunities for the development of both empathy and resilience – character traits that are of great importance for a generation for which smartphones and social media have ‘changed the game’ so dramatically.
Research studies highlight the benefits of community service:
- Those who give their time to others feel more ‘time affluent’, socially aware and connected to others.
- Studies have shown marked improvements in self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of self-worth.
- Stress is reduced and volunteers are happier and more well-rounded individuals.
In 2019, we plan to move from an expectation that our students complete community service hours to a culture characterised by ‘service learning’. Our new Chesed program will involve an expectation that students in Years 7-11 complete 10 hours of service in each of four different domains:
- Tikkun Olam (Service Learning outside the Jewish community)
- Tzedaka (Charity-based service learning)
- Chesed (Kindness-based service learning)
- Manhigut (Leadership-based service learning)
Students will be encouraged to learn about and reflect upon these experiences as part of the new procedures that will be introduced. Giving service to others is an important element of a Moriah education.
What is service learning?
The term ‘service learning’ describes an approach to education that aims to connect lessons learned in the classroom with real-life lessons learned through community service. It is a practice that has become increasingly common in both high schools and universities in the United States because educators like the fact that the learning process benefits both the students and the communities. It allows students to:
- learn more about their personal motivations;
- practice academic material outside of the context of the classroom and testing;
- develop critical thinking skills while solving real-world problems;
- think about problems and social issues in new ways; and
- develop a lifelong interest in giving back.
At last week’s assembly, I also shared an email that had been sent to us from a member of the community who had been moved by the kindness of Moriah students. I have included the text here to highlight the impact that very small acts of kindness can have on others.
To the Principal,
Hello. I am a spinal cord injury patient currently in Prince of Wales Hospital. I am several hundred kilometres from home and have left my family and farm. I was flown to Sydney by the air ambulance and haven’t seen my family for an extended period.
I was lying in bed feeling low when two beautiful representatives from your College popped into my room and gave me a simple packet of biscuits, handmade at OBK.
That simple gesture has not only cheered me up, but it left a happy thought with many of my friends on social media who also thought it was a lovely thing.
Please express my thanks to your students and let them know that their simple gesture has echoed around Australia.
You are teaching values of the importance of humanity and how simple kindness can have lasting impressions.
Again, thank you.
It’s moments like these that highlight the relevance of our College motto: To learn, to heed, to act!
About the Author
Jan Hart is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.