Shifting from Global to Local: Service in Action at American International School Hong Kong

Submitted by: Meghan Robertson, American International School Hong Kong
Appeared on the ET Journal Spring Issue 2022


American International School (AIS) works to instil the importance of “global mindedness” and service learning in our students. Since 2005, we have developed an Adventure Week program at AIS as part of our larger Outdoor Education & Leadership Program. For one week during the year all students take part in an off-campus, usually overseas, program that is designed to develop students holistically in a way not possible in the classroom or home setting. All of the programs include a community service component that provides students a chance to serve and give back to the community they visit. These programs also support our students as they develop our school’s Expected Schoolwide Learning Results becoming Empowered Thinkers, Global Citizens, Effective Communicators and Well-Rounded Individuals.

When the global COVID-19 pandemic began, we had to move away from our typical Adventure Week programs to keep our students and staff safe, as well as respond to significant travel restrictions. However, rather than cancel our experiential learning program outright, the plans for a new program that would meet the same learning and growth opportunities began. Like any other city in the world, Hong Kong has communities and environments in need.

Through shifting our focus from global to local, using the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development (UN SDGs) as an umbrella, and forging connections with local NGOs, charities, and organisations, From Global to Local was born! Our From Global to Local programs are designed to support our local community and allow students to see a different side of the city they know, love, and call home.

After many delays and setbacks throughout the 2020-2021 school year due to the continued pandemic, and after almost a year and a half of planning, we were finally able to run this program in November 2021! Seven programs were developed with Hong Kong organisations that focused on different UN SDGs to provide a variety of experiences for students. Students were given a choice in which program they would participate in to build excitement and focus on their area of interest. Students met with their groups to learn more about the UN SDG their local connection focused on. They learned about the goal on a global scale, then narrowed their focus to how the issue manifests in Hong Kong and what their local connection was doing to work towards a solution. They also explored ways they, as students, could make a difference in their daily lives. This learning led up to the three-day program spent immersed in activity and service with their local connection.

Over the course of three days, AIS students explored new areas of the city, met new people, and experienced new things. Students worked with World Wildlife Fund and VolTra to protect the natural environment in Hong Kong. They worked with Okapi Studio and Rooftop Republic focusing on sustainability. They worked with FeedingHK and St. Barnabas Home & Society to support those experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. They worked with SoapCycling to focus on the importance of hygiene. They worked with Africa Centre to bring awareness to equity issues and the plight of refugees. They built lasting connections within our community that will be nurtured in years to come. Some students have even been inspired to continue to volunteer with their local connection outside of school hours.

Two exciting aspects of these programs will continue at AIS throughout the year. The group that worked with VolTra built aquaponics systems that have been brought back to our school for use in our science classrooms from Grade 2 to 12. Students will learn about this method of sustainable food production while also studying the life cycle of plants. The group with Rooftop Republic built planter boxes that will be used at AIS to grow edible plants for use in our school cafeteria. The students from this program have diligently cared for their plants and can frequently be seen watering them during breaks. Younger students are also checking on the plants every day to see how much they have grown.

When back at school, students spent time reflecting about their learning and experiences during the From Global to Local programs. The program helped students to build and strengthen friendships, develop their communication and leadership skills, however, the most important thing is that the learning that students have taken away from these programs will stay with them. As they continue on their education and life journey and become the leaders of the future, hopefully, they will be encouraged to make changes to their lives in order to help us all meet the UN targets.

About the Author
Meghan Robertson is the Dean of Students & Service Learning Coordinator at American International School. She can be contacted at


>> Read more on the ET Journal Spring Issue 2022 page 42