CWI Supports Korean International School’s Work with Place Based Service-Learning

Korean International School students and parents meeting, with Joe Brooks and KIS’s curriculum director Ryan Persaud.

CWI’s director Joe Brooks recently completed an extended international expedition, including a lengthy site visit providing professional development support to the Korean International School (KIS) in Seoul. KIS is an extremely prestigious and elite school by any standard.

The school has made a commitment to integrating service-learning within its curriculum K-12.  CWI’s director and lead outreach educator Joe Brooks spent many long days working closely at KIS with faculty, students and parents on the school’s new K-12 initiative. His starting point, as always, was to understand what had come before, along with the hopes and vision of faculty, students and parents.

Joe was also at KIS to support the ongoing efforts of community service coordinator Andy Kennedy in trying to shift the school from charity based projects to service-learning. Andy has done an impressive job of raising faculty interest and connecting students to a number of small local people-focused organizations, including a home and nearby farm run for and by disabled adults. He also has done an excellent job mapping out potential points in school classrooms for conenctions. Andy’s obvious passion also lies in helping to change the apparent tendency by some in Korea’s culture to “hide away” orphans and the disabled.

Students nearly always see real value of service-learning and the way forward as quickly or quicker than adults. —Joe Brooks

Joe’s work with the faculty at KIS included providing on-to-one coaching, consulting, and professional development, with a weekend long CWI Institute on Place Based Service-Learning for faculty culminating the visit. Most of the attending faculty had previously been trained in project based learning (PBL). That work has produced many clear successes but there also appeared to be a sense of something more community based and compelling missing. So KIS faculty dug in deep to look at the more socially and academically challenging outcomes inherent to best practice based service-learning. PBL certainly does wonderful things for students but it generally relies on classroom based applications and simulations. Service-learning, by comparison, often works much more “without a net,” in the real world of the community—with all the unpredictability that can come with that approach and work.

In and around professional development sessions, Joe also visited local sites with Andy and KIS faculty, meeting potential partners and helping to identify a working understanding of the optimal partnership options for service-learning.

Joe visiting a rural farm run by a small community of disabled adults that is a possible partner for KIS student collaborations in the near future.


Joe and KIS high school students prepare for their meeting with the school’s PTO to seek their support.

Later in the visit Joe met with a group of KIS students who he says were, “awe inspiring for their immediate and near complete grasp of the crucial connections between service-learning, the application of content, and students developing career and life skills. They get it because it is all about their own future and taps into their sense of caring for their community.” And, he continued, “This was all the more interesting because these students have only experienced community service outside of the classroom and curriculum in their personal life and through church activities.”

Joe worked with that group of students to prepare a presentation and dialogue for parents from the PTO’s of all three divisions of the school. The students were so quickly and well prepared that it became obvious they could and should take the lead in sharing the school’s vision for incorporating service-learning K-12. The students put together a slide show and did  so well in fact that Joe invited them to join KIS teachers at CWI’s Institute over the weekend where they further unpacked the importance of putting a very solid approach to service-learning together at KIS. Several parents joined this effort with the students, preparing a presentation in Korean. The parents who attended representing the three divisions of PTOs were extremely supportive.

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Community Works Institute (CWI) provides resources, professional development, and collaboration opportunities for educators. Our focus is on place based education, service learning, and sustainability.
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