Building Student Leadership through PHE & Service Learning – Experiences of Stratford Hall School, Vancouver
Bobby Nishi
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Given it’s urban location, and proximity to public transportation, Stratford Hall – an independent IB school nestled in the heart of Vancouver – has always been able to offer many meaningful opportunities for community service to it’s students within a few minutes’ travel from the school.

For a long time we relied on outdoor projects, like beach clean-ups, or removing ivy (an invasive plant species) from local parks. Those spaces accessible at any time of the school day, were large enough for an entire class of students, and made for manageable supervision of the whole group with one or two teachers. It wasn’t long, however, before the teachers and students wanted to widen the range of service learning opportunities.

Students removing invasive plant species from a local park

Since our PHE programme includes an Outdoor and Experiential Education (OEE) component, we tried building in the development of leadership skills into that programme as a way to provide additional service learning experiences in the school day. For example, during regular PHE and OEE classes, students worked together – with the support of the teacher – to plan events like the PYP Sports Day, Jump Rope for Heart, and the Stratford Hall Track Meet. Through these experiences, students developed valuable leadership skills, whilst also honing their Learner Profile attributes. With the Sports Day, for example, students learnt important organisation skills that are required to plan a large community event. In turn, as they lead younger students in the activities that they had planned, they modelled good leadership skills for the others to draw inspiration from.

Equipped with these skills, students were better prepared for other opportunities outside of the regular class time, but still within the school day. For example, a large number of students decided to join a School Council (Athletics, Spirit, Arts, Innovation and Academics, and Action / Wellness) where they can meet with other like minded schoolmates, to plan a variety of school events and bring publicity and recognition to their chosen area.

MYP students leading the PYP Sports Day

We also created student leadership positions for service through Sports and Outdoor activities. In the Senior School, students assumed the role of Grade Leaders, who helped build class spirit and plan activities and opportunities for the rest of their classes during our advisory times. Students also volunteered as School Ambassadors, giving visitors tours of the school, or helping out as student coaches for different sports teams.

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In the Senior School we have started to implement grade leaders who help build class spirit and plan activities and opportunities for the rest of their classes during our advisory times.   Other students volunteered as school ambassadors, giving visitors tours of the school, or helping out as student coaches for the sports teams.

Students for councils to improv all facets of school life, like athletics, service, arts and academics

As students developed their leadership skills through these experiences, they also started to initiate their own service projects. For instance, having noticed that some students were bored at recess, one group of students planned an initiative to assemble toys and sports equipment that students could use at recess. Then, when the toys and equipment were being left behind after recess, they devised a plan to engage the younger students in taking better care of the equipment. Other students organized coat and blanket drives, food drives, support for a neighbouring school, and awareness campaigns to raise funds for events like Jeans Day and Jump Rope for Heart. 

Student led activities

All of these service learning and leadership opportunities are essential in preparing the students for meeting the expectations for Service Learning later in the MYP and DP programme. As students progressed through the later years of the MYP, they were expected to expand their Service Learning to include opportunities that they initiated, as well as opportunities beyond the school itself. Not only did this prepare them for the expectations of CAS in the Diploma Programme, it also equipped them to be active citizens in the different communities that they are a part of.

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Bobby Nishi
Bobby Nishi
Bobby Nishi has taught in the PYP and MYP for the past 17 years at Stratford Hall School in Vancouver, BC. During his time at the school, his main roles have been teaching PHE and Outdoor Experiential Education (OEE) while also taking on the role as Athletic Director and Junior School leadership co-ordinator.  He likes to take a very hands on approach to teaching and creates authentic opportunities for his students so they can take action. Outside of school, Bobby enjoys coaching his two daughters in softball and hockey and loves hiking, biking, and exploring BC.
Disclaimer - The ideas and resources presented in this blog have been developed independently from and are not endorsed by the International Baccalaureate (IB).