St. Margaret’s Upper School reinvented the grade 10 and 11 service retreat with a one-of-a-kind, experiential, service learning project, giving students tangible resources to serve the community, yet challenge them to figure out the who, how, and why.
Grade 10 and 11 students, 238 in total, were given 100 boxes of bike parts by their teachers with the challenge to build them and find worthy local charities to donate them within 48 hours. Teachers provided oversight, guidance and advice to the students. From there, the students were on their own to organize, plan and go to work.
“I liked that it wasn’t only a service project, that it was an actual learning opportunity that benefited us as students, as well as benefited the community,” said Ava Maas, grade 11.
Over the course of two days, students organized and worked within nine, self-designed project teams: bike building, bike safety and public policy, logistics and operations, innovation, research and donations, accounting, communications, morale and celebration and project management, to put this massive service project in action.
“Our students are creative, problem solvers, resourceful and driven. We were confident that if we gave them the framework of leveraging their individual skills and interests, and stepped back as educators, they would figure it out and get the job done. Ultimately, we knew that the learning and impact of this project would be that much more transformational and long-lasting as they grappled with the challenges versus something we defined for them,” said Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem, who was one of the project leaders.
Caitlin Young, grade 10 said, “We had the opportunity to work like we would in a real-life environment. We had to work together as a team in order to achieve our goals.”
The students engaged in the design-thinking process, gaining invaluable real-world life skills, including teamwork, creativity and problem solving. The Bike Build encompassed learning, leadership and service, the three tenets of the St. Margaret’s mission.
“The project was very productive and allows us to learn how to problem solve without much guidance from teachers. I also liked that we did something great in the process of learning, donating bikes to those who need them,” said Clayton Chalmers, grade 10.