ISB's charity heroes get younger

A collage of photos from Grade 5 service learning trips

By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Published on Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Students as young as 10 at the International School of Beijing (ISB) have been empowered to purpose and compassion through a new range of projects based around learning through charity and community service.

The week of February 20 saw Grade 5 depart on field trips around Beijing to:

  • Investigate food sustainability on an organic farm,
  • Come up with solutions to help underprivileged children of migrant workers,
  • Learn creative ways of recycling unwanted clothes and other goods,
  • Protect endangered species with the help of biodiversity experts,
  • And practice waste reduction and composting.

The series will be completed soon with another trip to get hands-on experience of water conservation at a reservoir, once the weather improves.

Modern schools are increasingly recognizing the value of students learning through service like this. Over the past few years, ISB has invested significantly in service learning, with members of staff dedicated to this area of the curriculum. ISB has more recently established strategic focus areas that include using the school’s resources to ensure students have integrity, strength of character, and that they can identify their talents and pursue their passions. Offering service learning opportunities is a big part of successfully achieving that.

A collage of photos from Grade 5 service learning trips

Some of the Grade 5 service learning trips

The trips for Grade 5 were the first of their kind. Service learning programs have typically been provided in High School and Middle School, but ISB wants to ensure they are in place for younger students too. These programs were adapted to be suitable for 10- and 11-year-olds with help from Keru, one of the external organizations that ISB contracts to provide expert guides and facilitate learning opportunities off campus.

The plan is for these to become long-term initiatives, with ISB Elementary School students now working on proposals to help the places and charities they have visited. 

‘Captivating, challenging, and relevant learning’

The trips “align with the social studies work the Grade 5 students do with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the ISB social-emotional learning curriculum,” explained Elementary School Assistant Principal Heather Densley. “The partnership with Keru enabled our Grade 5 students to have a captivating, challenging, and relevant learning opportunity inside and outside of the classroom. We look forward to the continued work the students will do around being global citizens and service learning.”

When presented with the choice of trips last month, Grade 5’s Alina C and Laura M opted for clothes upcycling at secondhand store Roundabout. The two are passionate about fashion and social causes!

“It felt good, like we were doing something to help the world,” said Alina after the trip.

“We learned how to reuse and repair things, make something old into something pretty,” added Laura. “There’s a lot of water and material used to make one piece of clothing, so throwing it away after using it for only a short amount of time would be wasteful. The money made from selling recycled stuff can also be used to benefit others.”

This is exactly the kind of inspiration ISB and Keru are looking to spark. Sara Huang, an operations manager for Keru, said, “We really want to foster awareness and conviction about charity. We want to change young people’s lifestyles and make them more conscious about using resources. Keru’s end goal is bringing students to parts of China where help is really needed, to truly grow students’ empathy. We have had many students really change their life goals after seeing people their own age who have far less than they do.”

Through initiatives like this, ISB is striving to open students’ eyes to the difference they can make in the world using their own skills and diligence. Service learning is sure to benefit both students and charities as it is extended to younger grades at ISB.


This article is about one case in which ISB is using its resources to empower students to purpose and compassion, which is one of three main strategic focus areas identified by the school. ISB news articles in 2022-2023 are all looking at aspects of ISB that are examples of the three areas. To find out more, click here.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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