Service learning is part of the fabric of daily life at Post Oak, not something extra that we do with students. It is at the heart of our work with them.
When does service learning begin in a Post Oak classroom? On the first day of school for the youngest child. One compelling reason for creating multi-age classrooms is the opportunities to give help and to be helped.
For example, in a Primary classroom, you may observe a five-year-old presenting a lesson to a three-year-old. From this exchange, the younger student learns that other people have much to offer; they learn it is okay to be helped, in addition to absorbing the practical lesson of the work; they learn respect and humility at the same time as academics. The older student learns that others are in need and that he or she has much to offer; they learn how to guide another person; they learn executive skills while their heart opens to help another.
This is the beginning of service learning in an academic environment, which is already based on active rather than passive learning.
By the time students reach our Middle School and High School in adolescence, they have developed the skills essential to service learning in the outside community. They have learned to give and receive help, to work cooperatively with others, to plan projects and to carry them out, and to reflect on their own learning. This is seen in the weekly service work Middle School students perform with outside organizations. It is the foundation of High School internships and intensive mini-semesters in international field schools.
Dr. Montessori recognized the prevailing developmental need of the early adolescent: to work in the adult world and to be validated for their work in that world. Service learning provides a unique opportunity for that kind of experience “in a morally meaningful way.” Other schools may expect community service on an extra-curricular basis as a graduation requirement. No other school in Houston structures community service into its regular school day on a scale like at Post Oak.