International School Manila

Integrity - Service - Merit

Service Learning in Elementary School

"Service learning can be defined as a teaching method that includes service to others. With service learning, students connect academic subjects, meet real community needs, become leaders who contribute ideas, make decisions, and solve problems, discover benefits for everyone involved, get to work with community partners, and develop as active members of society."  - Cathryn Berger Kaye, 2010

The roots of service learning in the Elementary School are deeply embedded in the fostering of empathy and the nurturing of connections with both people and the natural world. Through dispositional and transdisciplinary skill development, as well as service learning experiences, we aim to help our students develop significant, meaningful and reciprocally beneficial relationships with both nature and people. With ISM’s youngest learners and community, we aim to build the foundations necessary for our students to become lifelong sustainable and service-oriented global citizens. 




Service learning involves applying learned skills and knowledge to authentic community needs. We conceptualize these needs through the Compass Points of Nature, Society, Wellness and Economy. Students and staff engage with associated compass point “I can…” statements to frame key service learning concepts.

Students can access service learning through several different Service Learning Approaches including advocacy, community initiatives, in-school initiatives, ongoing projects and relationships, volunteerism and curriculum generated initiatives.

Our major focus in the Elementary School is on relationships within the ISM Community, however, there are also opportunities for exploring relationships with our local service partners and the global community.  

In addition to these approaches, we recognize the importance of Foundations for Service Learning as critical components of our program. These include the development of empathy, compassion, and a desire to help others. We build the students’ capacities in these areas through the development of dispositions, knowledge, skills, and understandings.


Compass Points

Compass Point I Can Statements

Nature: (Environment and Animals)

  • I can make choices that will help the environment and animals
  • I can show respect to the environment and animals
  • I can make little changes that make a Big difference
  • I can advocate for the environment and animals
  • I can show my understandings about the environment and animals

Economy: (The HOW and the WHY?)

  • I can make choices that change the world
  • I can think of different ways to help make the world a better place
  • I can figure out how to get things done
  • I can communicate to find solutions
  • I can be thoughtful about the use of money, products and services

Society: (Family, School, Community and Global)

  • I can help people and people can help me
  • I can make little changes that make a BIG difference
  • I can make changes at home and in school
  • I can make changes in my local community and the world
  • I can advocate for people that need help

Wellbeing: (Mind and Body, Self and Others)

  • I can think about how to be kind to myself and others
  • I can think about how people can be healthy
  • I can reflect on how my actions affect myself and others
  • I can have empathy for myself and for others
  • I can be ethical with my choices


Service Learning Approaches

Service Learning Approaches

ISM Examples


- Promoting awareness of an issue through a video, posters, presentation or event

  • Students presenting at an assembly on school issue
  • Students use and analyze data from service learning events to promote initiatives
  • A Grade 3 student raises money by selling plants to adopt a panda
  • Preschool students talk with other classes about how to care for flowers on the playground
  • Giving a speech within class to promote human rights

Ongoing Service

- Service events or relationships that happen on a regular basis, wherein relationships are strengthened over time

  • A student offers to go an play with preschool children during their recess to learn more about them and help out
  • Food made for Filipiniana goes to staff/cleaners/service partners, students are responsible for helping to organize initiative or deliver message
  • Buddy classes creating a book  for others to read
  • Grade 3 students collaborate to develop a hallway agreement
  • Students grow vegetables in a community garden and offer produce to those in need

School-based Service

-Looking at the way we do things at school in an effort to improve

- Developing relationships within the school

  • Organizing canteen initiatives to ensure waste is handled more effectively
  • Students presenting at an assembly on school issues
  • Girl Scouts or Cub Scouts help out a grade level with a special project
  • Free Library on ES Playground established/run by students
  • Older students partner with younger classes to help with projects
  • Performing a play to advocate for a cause related to the environment
  • A parent volunteers to help out running a soccer activity for a Saturday Wellness Play Date

Community-based Service

- Developing relationships with the community

  • Fire fighters come to visit the school to teach the children about fire safety
  • Grade 4 thinking about cultural and ethical component of cultures and interview peers, they present findings in a play for International Day
  • Saturday Family Service Events (RED Build)Saturday Family Service Events (rED Build)
  • Visiting a local orphanage and singing or playing games (as a continuation of an ongoing relationship)
  • Students organize a food drive after a unit on hunger and poverty
  • Working with a partner school to achieve a common goal
  • Students participate in tree planting in collaboration with La Mesa Nature Reserve
  • Having a book drive for a local children’s hospital, children have researched to find out which types of books are appropriate and needed

Immediate Need Service

- Disaster relief funding

- Assisting families in need

  • Typhoon relief and aid funding (any natural disaster funding)
  • Blood type services and donation protocol distribution


- Raising money to support a specific cause

  • A Grade 1 student raises money to buy school supplies for children in need
  • Students raise money for the local animal organization, PAWS


International Service

- Develop relationships with the global community

  • Grade 4 thinking about cultural and ethical component of cultures and interview peers, they present findings in a play for International Day
  • Ongoing relationships with organizations such as the World Wildlife Federation


- Staff, students, parents or service partners volunteer their time to a cause or event that will benefit another party

  • Volunteering in a different grade level to help out and learn
  • Middle and high school students partner with elementary school students (i.e., psychology students observe students in the early years to learn about child development)
  • A parent volunteers to teach yoga for a Saturday wellness play date
  • A partner organization volunteers to teach our students how to craft
  • Fire fighters come to visit the school to teach the children about fire fighting

Service Arising from the Curriculum

- Students become interested in accomplishing a service task either directly linked to the curriculum or as a tangent of learning happening within the classroom

  • Students interview support staff on their role within the school within a unit linked to the concept of community and share videos with family and peers
  • Students grow vegetables in a community garden and offer produce to those in need
  • Students collect data on lost items and problem solve to resolve the issue
  • Students develop an advocacy speech connected to human rights
  • After reading a book on global warming a student decides to fundraise money for a sustainability organization


Foundations of Service Learning



  • Knowledge, Skills, and Understandings
  • Empathy, Compassion, the Desire to Help Others
  • Dispositions (Self-directed, Caring, Responsible, Ethical/Fair, Creative, Balanced)


  • maintaining relationships over time,
  • being polite and respectful with all members of community including teachers, teaching assistants, support staff or drivers, and administrative staff,
  • modeling positive behaviours for peers, students and siblings,
  • using common language involved in developing a growth mindset,
  • exposing children to challenges in the world at large (i.e.,  poverty),
  • encouraging and celebrating open-mindedness,
  • sharing reading materials,
  • awareness of others feelings or emotions,
  • social thinking and empathy,
  • becoming familiar with the host culture,
  • respecting our school environment,
  • taking care of our own things,
  • and more!
*Please note that service learning initiatives are not limited to the examples provided.