Service Learning

6th Annual Spark Change Grant Award Ceremony and Day of Service

On Friday, April 6th, McAuliffe International held our 6th Annual Service Learning Day and Spark Change Award Ceremony. We were thrilled to welcome former senator and gubernatorial candidate, Mike Johnston as our keynote speaker for our annual Spark Change Grant Award Ceremony. McAuliffe students performed service to over 20 non-profits and donated over $4400.  This brings our total to $29,275 since student began this work six years ago. We received very positive feedback from our nonprofit partners and students had a great time doing their projects. Service learning is an important part of our IB curriculum and being a principled and caring IB learner.

Check out these great photos to see some of the students’ service projects in action.

2017-18 Service Learning Sign-Up

Students – sign-up for Service Learning Trips here!


Overview of Service Learning Program

At McAuliffe, we offer students real world knowledge, skills and experience by conducting service learning projects and working to improve their local and global communities. Taking action as the result of learning is an important part of being a principled and caring IB learner. Teachers at McAuliffe develop MYP units in order to engage students with content and contexts that will inspire action, which might include developing empathy, making small-scale changes to behavior, raising funds for a cause, or generating awareness campaigns. In addition to the service learning that is integrated into the curriculum, service learning takes place in the following ways:

  • Weekly service learning trips to local organizations such as Metro Caring, nursing homes, and partnering with local elementary schools in their reading programs. These trips are organized and led by Service Learning Coordinator Laura Rogers.
  • A Spark Change campaign (formerly known as Penny Harvest) in which students identify, raise money for, and give grants to local charity organizations. This program is managed by Sherry Beardshear, Becky Swenson, and Katherine Howes plus our Spark Change Leadership Group.
  • Our 8th Grade Community Project challenges 8th graders to work alone or in groups to identify a community need, work to address that need, and then present their project to parents, teachers, and students on March 17th from 8:00-9:20am. Stay tuned for details about this year’s projects.

Service Learning Trips

Students have the opportunity to do one or more service learning projects during the school year. Projects include work at the Ronald McDonald House, Metro Caring, Dahlia Square and Montbello Manor senior centers, Urban Farm, and partnering with local elementary schools in their reading programs. To sign up for these trips, students contact Laura Rogers via the Activities Edmodo group. or email

“This experience made me feel happy because it was fun to hang out with the kids and I enjoyed helping them. This experience included the ‘Thinker’ IB trait because we had to challenge ourselves to think about learning from a second grade perspective so we could teach it.” – Julia R.

McAuliffe students working in the kitchen at the Ronald McDonald House

Spark Change Leadership Group and Campaign

penny harvest meeting

Every fall, McAuliffe students raise money through our Spark Change (formerly Penny Harvest) campaign to fund grants to address needs they care about and vote on in their classes. Once those needs are selected, students in our Spark Change Leadership Group identify local charity organizations that address those needs. Then students raise money for those organizations, with grants made in the spring during an assembly.

Also during the spring, McAuliffe students take part in a Service Learning Day in which they work for those local organizations. In April, 2018  McAuliffe students will once again work with local and global charities for a full day of service. Here is just one of many thank you letters we received from our charitable partners.

Our Penny Harvest Leadership Group and Service Day are coordinated by Sherry Beardshear, Becky Swenson, and Katherine Howes. Watch for information about applying to be in the Spark Change Leadership Group next school year!

serviceday kids with grantees crop
Penny Harvest Grant Ceremony – April 2015
serviceday kids with mayor crop
Keynote speaker Mayor Michael Hancock with McAuliffe students – April 2015. Photo courtesy of Steve Larson, Front Porch.

8th Grade Community Project

As an IB capstone project for our 8th graders, our 8th Grade Community Project challenges 8th graders to work alone or in groups to identify a community need, work to address that need, and then present their project to parents and teachers. Check out some of the projects here.

Some of last year’s projects included helping organize an elementary school food pantry, writing a book about fostering dogs, and raising money to donate to non-profit Heifer.

2016 Penny Harvest Grant Ceremony and Service Day

On April 8th, we were thrilled to host Governor John Hickenlooper as our keynote speaker this year for the annual Penny Harvest Grant Award Ceremony. Our favorite moment of the ceremony may have been when the governor turned around on stage and took a selfie with the audience members in the background – so hip!

Through Penny Harvest and as a community, we donated $5,500 to over 20 non-profits, and then all of our students traveled to perform service and learn about the services these non-profits provide in and around Denver. Many thanks to everyone for their contributions and hard work making this event possible, most especially Sherry Beardshear, who does an amazing job organizing the logistics! Check out photos below of just some of the students’ service projects that took place this day.

Does your student enjoy service learning? Next year we will be at it again, and we will be posting information about applying to become a Penny Harvest leader at the beginning of the school year.

Denver Public Schools