Every summer, participants from the MC University would team up with their partner-communities to implement the service-learning activity, an activity anchored on the concept that students learn what they teach. Its aim is to enhance the learning of its volunteer-teachers as they teach their student-participants what they know best.
The partner communities to which the MC University students were assigned were the Mount Carmel High School and the Burdeos Central School in Burdeos, Quezon, a fourth-class municipality separated from the rest of Luzon by sea. It can be reached only after hours of travel through torturous roads on land and a perilous boat ride.
Spearheaded by their principal, Sister Miranda, the service-learning activity was aimed at motivating the participants to hone their writing skills and come up with articles for their school paper. My classmates and I prepared a three-day module using the seminar-workshop method that would allow us to review our knowledge of Journalism, as we engaged the participants in the challenges of writing articles for their school paper
April 17, 2013
From MC University, my classmates and I were at the agreed-upon place en route to Real, Quezon for the early-morning boat ride. We were at the wharf as early as 5 a.m. but since the boat left at 9 a.m., we had ample time to enjoy the scenery and take in the fresh air. Once at the Polillo port, we disembarked along with other passengers.
It was not difficult to get a ride from the port since several jeepneys were parked at the portal, waiting for arriving passengers. The ride to Burdeos proved to be an ordeal through torturous road made almost impassable by muddy, potholed roads. The entire time we were inside the six-seater jeepney, we were continuously jolted by the occasional bumps on the road.
We arrived in Mount Carmel a little after lunch. Sister Lenny was at the veranda of her remodeled missionary house, beaming and eager to welcome us. She and her mainstays had postponed lunch to let us join them for a sumptuous home-cooked meal. Knowing we were tired from the trip, Sister Lenny allowed us to rest so we could recharge in time for the next day’s activities.
April 18, 2013
The day of the actual implementation of the service-learning task! I had amply prepared for the activity, but I was unsure just who the participants would be. Although Ms. Mina had earlier informed us about the participants, we did not expect to have fifth and sixth graders in the class. We had been informed that some high school seniors would be in attendance, but never did we guess that elemqntary graders would be among the participants. Contrary to what we expected, the graduating junior high school students for whom we had customized the module were not in attendance. They were instructed to attend the session on “Student Volunteerism” conducted by another group of student-volunteers. As a result, the module we prepared weeks in advance proved to be age-inappropriate. But in true girl-scout spirit, we made last-minute changes in the module, customizing it to suit the age and needs of the younger participants. The modified module included more fun activities and games, more icebreakers and more age-appropriate teaching-learning strategies. Although we retained much of what we had previously included in the module, we modified it a bit so the elementary school participants would not feel left out.
April 19, 2013
“Time flies when you’re having fun” could very well sum up the second day of the service-learning activity. By this time the participants and I were more at ease with each other. They responded well to the activities and games for which we gave out prizes. I had never participated in a service-learning activity before involving varied age groups and it surprised me that I could work with them despite my preconceived notions about them—that they are rowdy and difficult to handle. Perhaps because they knew ours was going to be a brief encounter, they put on their best behavior. Occasionally a few were noisy, but they were alert to my cues. The unlikely combination of elementary school students and high school seniors proved to be a challenge because of the age disparity and the level of difficulty of some activities.
Later that day, it became clear to us that age difference and school-affiliation issues (both groups represented two different schools) were manifest, but I diffused the ‘tension’ by means of activities that went beyond age and school affiliations. For instance, in most activities, we emphasized their need to think in terms of the future of their school paper, regardless of the school that they represent. Age wasn’t a factor when it came to encouraging class participation. There was not much difference in the level of attention we were getting from both groups, and I was pleasantly surprised to get thought-provoking answers from the younger group. Although they were more prone to inattentiveness due to the summer heat, the younger group did not doze off in the middle of the session as I had expected. In fact, they were just as alert as their older counterparts.
April 20, 2013
When the time of the culminating activity came, both groups did not complain of the summer heat and the varied writing activities they had to complete, and they were in their best element. I succeeded in mobilizing a few of the talented ones to represent their batch in the closing program. They were just too eager to showcase their talent. According to their teachers who were present during the culmination, seeing their students perform onstage was indeed a revelation. A few of those who presented song and dance numbers had not been gutsy enough to showcase their talents in any of the school events before.
Armed with old issues of the Trailblazers which we used as a learning tool and their certificates of attendance, the participants gathered for a pictorial. It was a fitting end to an activity from which I too, had benefited by way of eye-opening life lessons about sharing and giving back as a way to enrich oneself.