SEL in Service Learning School Trips in China

Service Learning Projects are More Than Just Charitable Activities

At WildChina Education, we strive to achieve the dual growth of both mind and heart in all our programs. We aim to take students out of the classroom, away from the virtual world, immersing them in the broader natural environment. Here, they can engage with warm and welcoming locals and develop deep and positive connections with their real surroundings and the people they meet.

Renowned social anthropologist Biao Xiang has highlighted the issue of the “disappearance of the nearby” in contemporary society: we increasingly perceive the world through abstract concepts and principles, while the “concreteness” around us no longer forms the basis of our understanding of life.
Service Learning is a prime method for students to rebuild this sense of proximity and is an essential component of experiential education.

This time, we partnered with Jiguang Public Welfare, an NGO in Shanghai. Usually, their staff accompany visually impaired individuals on outdoor walks to enjoy nature. This time, our students joined them, hand in hand with the visually impaired, experiencing their challenges and joys from their perspective, sharing in their daily lives and aspirations.

Join project leader Ricardo to delve into this service learning project of walking with and assisting visually impaired individuals:

The National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) defines community service as a method of teaching and learning where students use academic and civic knowledge and skills to address real community needs. It’s a form of experiential learning that turns academic interests into solutions for genuine community issues.

A real community service project is not just a charitable activity but includes the following long-term and in-depth goals:

  • Students learn by engaging in planned, organized experiences that meet actual community needs.
  • The project is integrated into academic courses, guiding students to reflect and summarize their experiences.
  • Students apply their knowledge and skills to help solve real-world problems in community settings.
  • Extending learning from the classroom to the community fosters students’ curiosity and empathy.

Therefore, whether it’s our previous projects like the ancient village restoration in Songyang, Guizhou Clothes Drive, the ancient trail restoration in Beijing, road construction in Vietnamese villages or this project supporting visually impaired individuals, we design our programs based on these principles to facilitate equal exchanges and lasting connections between students and the community.

Why Service Learning is Highly Valued in International Education

In recent years, the pandemic and increasing issues such as mental health challenges and suicidal tendencies among children have led educators to seek better solutions. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has become increasingly important, with many schools integrating SEL practices into their education systems.

SEL involves students acquiring knowledge and skills while:

  • Shaping a healthy personal identity
  • Recognizing and managing their emotions
  • Developing a sense of responsibility and caring for others
  • Building harmonious and positive relationships
  • Making responsible decisions to benefit themselves, others, and society

The purpose of SEL is to connect students with their environment.

As Daniel mentioned in his presentation on Service Learning in China at the ACAMIS education conference: the core of community service is to focus on the needs of those being served. This approach helps students step out of their self-centred perspectives, encouraging them to focus more on vulnerable groups, care for the environment, and show compassion for others. This is what community service can achieve: fostering respectful, responsible, and compassionate global citizens.

Learning to Feel, Accept, Express Love Through Tangible Actions

“Love” is both a grand and a delicate word. It is grand because we always advocate for love, hoping for a world without war, conflict, or discrimination, where mutual understanding and empathy prevail among people and between humans and animals. It is delicate because it exists in every moment of our lives—in interactions with parents, loved ones, classmates, and neighbors, where we can concretely express love.

For children to positively perceive and express love, they must see “us” instead of “me.” Beyond themselves, they need to understand different lifestyles, viewpoints, and positions, and comprehend the existence of minority and disadvantaged groups. This understanding can only be truly realized through hands-on practice in community service and volunteer projects, leading to genuine understanding and empathy, and thereby learning the ability to respect and love.

Through the process of feeling, accepting, and expressing love, children learn to keenly observe and vividly perceive their environment, community, and society. They understand that the world includes not just themselves but also parents, family, friends, and teachers; not just one language, but the languages and ethnicities of all countries; not just the difficulties they face, but the cries from afar; not just humans, but countless other wonderful species.If children can perceive the world through the lens of kindness and perform good deeds rather than merely exploiting it, the world will become a vibrant and expansive place, no longer just a collection of dull information and data. They will no longer feel that life is empty and meaningless.

At WildChina Education, service learning projects like educational travel to China go beyond charity by immersing students in real-world environments and fostering deep connections with local communities. Partnering with Jiguang Public Welfare, students walked with visually impaired individuals, experiencing their challenges firsthand. Service learning integrates academic knowledge with community needs, promoting empathy, responsibility, and social engagement. This hands-on approach helps students understand diverse perspectives and build compassionate relationships. Emphasizing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), these projects encourage students to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, and make responsible decisions, ultimately shaping them into respectful and empathetic global citizens.

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