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Bosque School
Bosque School

Bobcat Stories

Nurturing Hearts and Minds: A Look Into Bosque School's Transformative Service Learning Program

At Bosque School, where academic rigor is the norm, a vibrant and transformative aspect exists that goes beyond textbooks and classrooms. Bosque School’s service learning coordinator, Zach Lang, provides insight into the service learning program and how it helps students pursue meaningful community engagement.

"In a heavily academic school like this, with a lot of time spent doing heavy-duty work, it's nice to be able to flex a different part of their brain," reflects Mr. Lang. "By the time they get into high school, they get to develop that kind of passion into a program, and that's kind of the point of the wellbeing part of Bosque School. Service learning fits well within Bosque School for that reason."

The program, evolving from guided experiences in middle school to independent groupings in upper school, has faced challenges post-pandemic. Many pre-existing partnerships did not survive, prompting Mr. Lang to embark on an investigative journey, preserving the essence of service learning. "I am essentially like an archaeologist, going through all the old service director’s Google Classrooms and finding out what she used to do," Mr. Lang shares.

Despite the hurdles, the recent leadership training with high schoolers, a tradition from pre-pandemic times, offered valuable insight into the varied projects students are engaged in. Mr. Lang emphasizes the importance of students knowing they have him as a point person and how to involve an adult in accomplishing their service learning goals.

In middle school, Mr. Lang's role in providing framing and context underscores the focus on service learning projects and field trips. "Otherwise, it's just performative," he notes. If we just take all our students to the farm to help pull weeds and never talk about it again, that's different than if we explain how a day of work with all of our hands makes their four volunteer staff able to do so much more."

In 6th grade, students tackle the issue of food injustice, delving into a unit on food waste. "This is one of the problems we CAN do something about," Mr. Lang asserts. We talk about expiration dates and best-by dates so they can really understand that they can pay attention to and make a difference."

Moving into 7th grade, students become more involved with the farm, working directly with local farmers and engaging with the Seed to Need program, an organization that teaches agricultural skills. "They are meeting people who have a very different lived experience from them," Mr. Lang remarks.

In eighth grade, students become reading buddies to younger students at a local elementary school. During this year-long project, they learn literacy lessons and gain insights into poverty literacy and the correlation between literacy and incarceration rates. "We’re teaching them to be the adults in the room," Mr. Lang says, highlighting the positive impact on both eighth graders and their kindergarten buddies.

Bosque School also houses independent service groups, like the Bosque Art Therapy Society, which is an example of how service learning groups often evolve directly from student initiatives. "That is one of the programs that survived the pandemic. The kids just really pushed to continue," Mr. Lang shares.

Through a service vs. activism class for 9th graders, Bosque School Latin teacher Chris Alvarez helps students understand the difference between the two and encourages them to find their unique way of contributing. Ms. Alvarez emphasizes the importance of immediate service and long-term activism and provides the students with a valuable framework for independent exploration.

As the program continues to evolve in the upper school, efforts are being made to integrate service projects into the 10-12 curriculum, ensuring a touchpoint for students and aligning with their passions. "In 12th grade, they go back to the farm, and it all goes full circle. This is part of senior immersives. It's one of the last things they do before graduation. They are bonded and excited for graduation," Mr. Lang explains, highlighting the significance of this culminating experience.

Bosque School's commitment to service learning frequently extends beyond our own campus, with community connections such as the RoadRunner Food Bank, Echo, and Armijo Elementary School. These partnerships offer students the opportunity to witness the full impact of their efforts, reinforcing the school's dedication to creating well-rounded individuals.