At BCA we provide avenues for students to lead by serving in their classrooms, in their school, in their community, and beyond, with the understanding that every arena of society—science and technology, the arts, government, athletics, journalism, business, vocational ministry—offers opportunities to be agents of God’s Kingdom.
Leading by serving is not about preparing students for the important, complex work they will accomplish “someday” or “somewhere.” Leading by serving starts here and now. It is the defining feature of the BCA experience.
At BCA, we will call these leading-by-serving experiences “vision-based learning,” or VBL for short. Others might refer to this as experiential learning, service learning or servant leadership; and while we incorporate elements from all of these, VBL is all our own.
Here are some examples:
A class of BCA Lower School students researches causes and solutions for homelessness, and then works with a community organization to plan and implement meaningful action.
A group of BCA High School students expresses concern about racial inequities in our country, articulates a set of burning questions, and then works with a team of faculty, parents, students and outside experts to organize a weeklong colloquium on the subject of racial justice.
When engaged in vision-based learning, students are accomplishing work that matters to the larger community. They are framing questions and pursuing answers. They are taking risks. They are making decisions. They are collaborating with peers and adults; negotiating, communicating, contributing. They are active agents in their own education.
In the process, they are developing and exhibiting, in increasing measure, the passion, skill, integrity and faith that characterize one who leads by serving.
Implications for Learning
The implications for student learning are profound:
Purposeful learning. Why are we studying this? It’s a critical question often left unanswered in schools, despite compelling research demonstrating that a clear sense of purpose fuels passionate learning. What if we’re learning this so that we can discover answers to our own burning questions? So that we can participate in a cause that is important to us? So that we can accomplish important work? When schooling is purposeful, students are poised to lead by serving with passion.
Contextualized learning. We know that learning is not ultimately about studying discreet bits of information, but rather about constructing a meaningful framework of knowledge. When students see how information and ideas relate and fit together, they learn more and can apply their knowledge in new and useful ways. They don’t just know – they understand; and, by understanding, they become more competent, powerful people. Vision-based learning provides a meaningful context to lead by serving with ever increasing skill.
Personal learning. Too often, students assume a passive role in school; their education happens to them. But we know that students learn deeply when they have a sense of agency: when they set goals and monitor their own progress; when they articulate questions and pursue answers; when they are called upon to make decisions, take risks and claim responsibility. Cognitive scientists call this “metacognition” – a thoughtful efficacy in learning. In vision-based learning, students develop integrity by actively taking responsibility for their own education.
Relational learning. Vision-based learning projects, by nature, require collaboration with peers, teachers and members of the larger community. They raise students’ attention above personal aspirations, bringing into focus others’ needs and perspectives. And they call upon students to consider their role in the larger work of God’s kingdom, taking prayerful steps of obedience to the Gospel. In short, leading by serving exercises faith.