At York House School, our mission is to empower students to become active global citizens with the courage to act on their beliefs and make a difference. To bring the mission to life at the School, we seek to build students’ capacity to understand and act on issues of local and global significance. We seek to incorporate this goal across curricular and co-curricular initiatives from JK to Grade 12. Through a host of learning opportunities, including community-based learning programs and partnerships, we create hands-on experiences so that students may develop an understanding about current issues and consider how they might participate in conversations taking place on these issues at local and global fora around the world.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an overview of issues students and teachers are engaging and exploring at the school and around the world. These were created in 2015 by the United Nations Member States as a way to focus our attention, work together, take action, and bring ‘peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future’ by 2030. As we renew our community engagement post-COVID, the Community Service Learning Program has provided a range of opportunities that link to these goals, with an aim to deepen students’ understanding of local and global issues, and encourage students to take action on these issues.
At YHS, we are exploring the UN’s first goal of ‘ending global poverty’ by various community drives that have taken place both in the Junior School, in the form of the winter hampers for the Union Gospel Mission, and the Winter Warmer Drive for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. Learning around the UN’s Second Goal — to address food insecurity — took place in the form of a trip to the Backpack Buddies warehouse in North Vancouver. This trip was spearheaded by our Community Service Captains and involved students, staff and parents packing food for vulnerable children in the lower mainland. One of the YHS Senior School captains, Ruby, reflected: ‘I think with any issue, we can all feel helpless at times, not sure of how to help out or make an impact. I have come to realize that it is here, where we start — with organizations like Backpack Buddies that provide effective and human solutions to complex problems.’ The visit to the Backpack Buddies warehouse provided a springboard for conversation about what was needed, why it was needed, and how this model addresses the issues of food security.
In November, a group of Grade 7 and 8 students took part in the ISABC’s Student Leadership Program, led by public speaker and energy coach Jill Payne. This program is focused on helping students to manage their energy and wellness, develop leadership skills and is based on the premise that ‘life is meant to be joyful’. Students then shared their learning with their peers as part of our Wellness Wednesday leadership block, and during a lunch meeting with the Head of School, Ms. Lavell. This learning links to the UN’s Third Goal of promoting well-being for all.
Our Grade 5 students have begun to develop their understanding of the fourth UN Goal of inclusive quality education for all, participating in the Reading Bears Society program, which involves Grade 5 students meeting once a month and reading with a buddy in Kindergarten or Grade 1 at Queen Alexandra Elementary School in East Vancouver. Grade 5 also ran a school-wide book drive to encourage members of our community to help foster a love of reading for children who do not have easy access to books.
Finally, this term there has been a school-wide focus on environmental sustainability, linking to the UN’s Thirteenth Goal of taking action to combat climate change. The energized Community Service Team has been trialing a Senior School plastic reduction initiative that involves encouraging everyone to replace one-time use cutlery and take-out containers with entirely reusable plates and cutlery! This has involved working alongside the cafeteria and maintenance staff to set up stations on each floor of the school where students can place their used dishes, with volunteers from Grades 8-12 helping bring the cutlery back to the cafeteria to be washed at the end of lunch. Students have also shared their learning in school assemblies, in order to show the importance of reducing our waste in our bid to address climate change.
In addition, Grade 7 ADST took part in a sustainability project that involved students following a process of understanding their local environment, identifying an issue, ideating possible solutions, and finally creating! Some of the finished prototypes included sustainable tote bags and a re-design of the school garbage bins!
These are brilliant examples of our students leaning into issues affecting the world around them, deepening their understanding of such issues, and then taking action, however small, as citizens with a global perspective. These are small steps on a journey to broadening our perspective and joining forces with people and communities across borders to support our collective well-being.
We are really looking forward to continuing our learning around these important issues with our community next term and living out our school motto of ‘Not for Ourselves Alone’.
Coordinator of Community Partnerships and Programs