IB for All: #GenerationIB and Service Learning

The DFHS story of “IB for All” is well documented in this blog. Our school was the first public high school to be authorized as an IB Diploma Program (DP) school in 1998 (#DFHSIB20), and our shared belief in “IB for All” served as the driving force behind obtaining authorization to the IB Middle Years Program in 2016. We proudly share our story annually at the IB Global Conference by focusing on a specific aspect of how we accomplish “IB for All” in a small, diverse suburban public school district. In 2015, we presented in Chicago on how our 1:1 Chromebook program promoted equity and access to the IB DP, and in subsequent years we focused specifically on areas such as program development (Toronto, 2016), special education (Orlando, 2017), and the MYP Personal Project (San Diego, 2018). In 2019, our plan is present on service learning, and more specifically how we are working to further promote a “think globally act locally” mindset into all aspects of our school.

A belief in the importance of contributing beyond ourselves is at the core of the IB mission to create a “better and more peaceful world.” This level of service, however, means less when it comes as a result of a school requirement (“every student must complete 30 hours of service or else!”) or as a way to enhance a college resume. With this in mind, our focus has been on how we can compel students to freely and voluntarily engage in meaningful service without it being a mandate or requirement. The trick here, of course, is for students to be so inspired by what happens inside of school that they want to make a difference outside of school. Not always an easy feat, even for an IB school.

As IB celebrates its 50th anniversary (1968-2018), we are proudly celebrating our 20th using the hashtag #DFHSIB20. As part of our celebration, we have taken on #GenerationIB as a rallying point for encouraging service and civic engagement in an effort to truly make a difference in our community. Here are some of the steps that we have taken thus far:  

Establishing a Clear Vision: I met with our department leaders in August to set the course for the upcoming year prior to the arrival of our faculty. Part of what we discussed this year was the work that we have done with “IB for All” and next steps that we may take to continue to push our school forward. Service learning and the idea of “CAS for ALL” has long been something that we have talked about and this is the first year that we have articulated a clear goal around this concept. During our meeting, we came to consensus on the following definition of the term to share with the faculty: “Bringing awareness and empathy to global issues that exist and thinking about how we can tackle those issues in our local community.” In addition to providing a direction and vision for the school, the definition moves service learning to a level of deeper understanding of the issues that exist in order to compel and inspire actual and tangible service.

Inspiring Service: There is perhaps nothing that makes me shake my head more than the idea of “completing” service as part of some type of requirement. Though it may come with the best of intentions, we too often see people completing service essentially because they are being forced to. We see this in schools that have “required” hours of completion, in our penal system via required community service, and even with IB CAS, though to a somewhat lesser extent. Service needs to come from within. It is selfless by its very nature and the reward is intrinsic and personal. At DFHS, we have had early conversations about how to inspire such levels of selflessness so that students are compelled to seek opportunity to serve based on their own passion. These conversations are now taking place inside of our classrooms within the context of our curriculum. This integrated approach to service within the curriculum aims to inspire action outside of the walls of our school.

#Generation IB: As part of 50 years of IB (1968-2018), students around the world from all four IB programs have been showcasing their efforts to find solutions to some of the most pressing global issues. At DFHS, our IB MYP teachers and students have taken this on as a complement to the Year 5 MYP Personal Project. At the start of the year, MYP teacher @MsCairoHistory challenged her students with the following essential question: “What are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and what can be done to remedy them?” This question has served as a focus for the course and is one that we are challenging teachers and students in all disciplines in all grade levels to consider. Simply put, all teachers of all subjects can help students to reflect upon how the respective content that they are teaching impacts the larger global world. In doing so, student thinking is broadened beyond the walls of our school and the call to act and make a difference with tangible service comes from within.

Service Learning Team: As IB Learners, we always strive to be reflective and open-minded inquirers. Our service learning team consists of a group of individuals who have those very qualities. They are dedicated to examining what we currently do as a school with regard to service and, more importantly, how we can inspire all individuals in our learning community to engage in service that makes a positive difference in our local community. We have already seen our students rally behind several efforts, including recycling, hurricane relief, and school safety. We also have many students who are individually engaged in service outside of our school, service is a pillar of our honor society, and of course our full IB DP students are engaged with IB CAS. Given that, our team (and school!) is working from a place of strength.

Recognizing Service:  A few years back we started a full campaign to truly imbed the IB Learner Profile into all aspects of our school. This included revamping our behavior expectations to include IB Learner Profile qualities, adjusting all aspects of teaching and learning based on the profile, and most significantly recognizing the members of our school community who demonstrate one or more of the respective qualities. In doing so, we recognized teachers on a weekly basis as well as students at our monthly IB Learner Profile breakfast. In terms of service, the same approach is going to be taken. The point in this, however, isn’t necessarily to provide an extrinsic reward in as much as it is to celebrate the work of others and to inspire thought and possible action in others.

We are looking forward to sharing our work from this year at the IB World Conference in New Orleans next July! The conference theme is #GenerationIB, and we are looking forward to being inspired and inspiring others to truly think globally and act locally.

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