TASIS students, teachers, administrators, and members of the Board of Directors gathered in the Villa de Nobili Salon on the evening of October 19 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of this pioneering program and honor the man who made it all possible, Jan Opsahl.
Service Learning Programs
Service Learning contains all the elements of a community service program and builds upon service endeavors by focusing on education. Research has shown that the Service Learning approach develops a more sustainable devotion to service in students. A focus on education inspires awareness of the deeper underlying issues and causes of challenges that different communities face.
- HS Global Service Program
- MS Service Learning
- ES Service Learning
- News and Stories
- Global Service Program Videos
Opsahl Global Service Program
The Opsahl Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The TASIS Opsahl Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student with a unique opportunity to connect across borders—whether geographic, economic, or social—through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. The Program awakens students to humanitarian needs, inspires them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and leads them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service.
Opsahl Global Service Groups
This service learning program is compulsory for all students in grade nine. During weekly meetings that include discussions, guest speakers, films, simulations, readings, and other activities, students are exposed to a number of themes and topics that the Opsahl Global Service Program seeks to address: Education, Water/Sanitation, Poverty, Gender Equality, the Environment, and Marginalized Populations.
At least once a month on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, TASIS students host children from this home for disadvantaged mothers and their families. Students set up celebrations, fundraise, and plan activities for young children at Casa Elisabetta. All participants should speak some Italian and enjoy spending time and playing with very young children.
Red Cross Refugees
The Red Cross in Paradiso provides support to young refugees (children and teenagers) from places such as Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan as they make a new start in Switzerland. TASIS students plan and participate in after-school activities twice a month on Wednesdays with teenage refugees and asylum seekers residing in Lugano.
This group focuses on implementing environmental changes on the TASIS campus throughout the year. Meetings will be devoted to learning about issues that impact our world ecosystem and visiting local recycling plants and compost systems, all while paying special attention to how we can further our own green initiatives at TASIS.
TASIS students visit Al Pagnolo, a local retirement home, at least once a month on Wednesday afternoons. The group name stems from the encounters in which students share time with people of a different generation. Students use their talents, interests, and energy to plan and prepare activities (e.g., conversations, playing games, cooking, singing, sports, tournaments, etc.) with the residents of Al Pagnolo.
OTAF supports people with differing degrees of physical and mental disabilities. Students will interact and socialize one-on-one with three guests, who will be visiting the TASIS campus twice a month on Wednesdays.
Students in this group learn what goes into producing the meals they eat and will step into an experiential piece by creating their own garden, compost system, and water irrigation on campus. They will ultimately produce vegetables for the TASIS community to enjoy and learn about what it means to produce food in an ethical and organic manner.
Students work with PEPY, an organization that aims to empower youth and believes that one has to learn before one can help—and that a wider understanding of Cambodian contexts and related development issues is essential before trying to support change. In June, TASIS students volunteer in the Cambodian countryside as well as at local educational facilities in Siem Reap, assisting with the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program.
Nepal: Tibetan Refugees
After learning about the history of Nepal and the plight of Tibetan refugees, TASIS students, with the help and insights of the Tserok community, raise funds and travel to Nepal for two weeks during Spring Break to help develop infrastructure for the Tserok Tibetan refugee camp. Particular areas of focus include building projects alongside the local community, education, and environmental stewardship.
Zambia/Botswana: Serving Southern Africa
While confronting stereotypes about life in Africa and its people, TASIS students spend the year learning about the challenges of development and economic growth in rural Africa. For two weeks in June, students assist in rural and urban communities in Zambia, helping the elderly, volunteering at the local preschool, assisting with the provision of medication at a local hospital, planting trees, holding art workshops for street children, and transforming the community through their service.
WISER is a girls-only boarding secondary school in Muhuru Bay, Kenya, a struggling rural community on Lake Victoria. After examining issues of universal education and gender equality, students spend February Academic Travel getting to know the community of Muhuru Bay, Kenya. They assist at local primary schools, educate the community on the benefits of purified water, visit local medical clinics, and work closely with the WISER school.
EcoVisio, working in the poorest country in Europe—nestled between Romania and Ukraine—is a youth-led grassroots NGO that has built an environmentally friendly village in the small town of Riscova (39 km from Chişinău) designed to promote sustainable living and community development. TASIS students help EcoVisio with a variety of infrastructure projects during the first week of Spring Break—both within the Eco-village and within the broader community, where they have designed and built equipment for a nature park in order to provide locals a space for gatherings and celebrations.
India: Gram Vikas
Gram Vikas is an NGO that has been working with the rural people of Odisha, India, for nearly 40 years. Students learn about the regions of India and research educational opportunities for students in the areas Gram Vikas serves. The group spends eight days in India working with Gram Vikas during February Academic Travel. They focus on “expanding horizons through research, service, and experience.”
Mongolia: Understanding Ulgii
This group is dedicated to supporting and building a lasting relationship between TASIS students and a community of English language learners in Ulgii, a city in western Mongolia. TASIS students plan and teach English language lessons to school-age students during the first 10 days of June vacation. Fundraising covers the cost of school supplies, including books, posters, and new desks. Additional side projects have included environmental initiatives, such as researching and teaching about various methods of waste management on small and large scales.
OurLand is a wildlife reserve and education center located at the southern tip of the Western Forest Complex and Salakphra Wildlife Sanctuary—a region heavily impacted by habitat loss, degradation, and human-wildlife conflict. Students in the group spend their two-week spring holiday visiting three types of wildlife sanctuaries to learn about ethical elephant tourism, talking to those on the front lines of human-elephant conflict, and helping out locals however they can.
For more information, please contact Opsahl Global Service Program Director Patricia Clardy.
Middle School Service Learning
Service Learning is an integral part of the entire TASIS curriculum, inspiring students to think beyond themselves and assume active roles in improving society. The Service Learning Program reflects the School’s overall commitment to encouraging sound human values alongside academic excellence.
In the Middle School, Service Learning helps students develop their leadership, organizational, and citizenship skills while they help the local community. The program helps students develop a sense of independence, a strong work ethic, and an awareness of the necessity and value of service.
Middle School Service Learning is integrated into the weekly schedule, and students are graded on their effort.
Middle School Service Learning Groups
Grade 6: TASIS Community
Environmental Club (E-Club)
Environmental Club concentrates on making the School a more conscious and environmentally-aware community. Students learn how reducing, reusing, and recycling helps eliminate waste and save money, energy, and natural resources. Once a week, the group recycles paper from all Middle School classrooms and offices. In addition, they explore green alternatives such as edible cutlery and examine how various sustainable solutions could be implemented at TASIS.
Acts of Kindness
Students learn about the nature of being kind and compassionate and how these characteristics make our campus and the world a positive place for all people. A goal of the group is to teach students how individual actions can positively impact people and how random acts of kindness can build confidence, compassion, character and community. Monthly themes are associated with various kindness activities that take place in the classrooms and around campus.
The 5th-Grade Transition group works to provide a smooth transition for our rising 6th graders. The group reflects on their own transition to 6th grade and plans information sessions and events for the 5th graders. The goals are to get to know each other, make the 5th graders excited about Middle School, help them better understand the MS program and expectations, and ensure a smoother transition for their next TASIS adventure.
Grade 7: Local Community
Located in Como, Cometa is an association of families that has created a special community dedicated to providing a better life for the less fortunate. The community features a temporary adoption program, a sports association, and school (Liceo artigianale) where students learn manual jobs. Students become familiar with the organization by meeting Cometa leaders and discovering why service is important to them. Students are involved in a variety of projects, from presenting the group and its work at a TASIS assembly to creating posters for the organization. Other activities include helping to organize events, fundraising, and visiting Cometa at least twice a year. The aim is that students learn the impact that service can have. They also learn that even the smallest gesture can make someone else’s life better.
The Poverty Awareness Group focuses on the nature, causes, and challenges of poverty, extending to how large and small environments impact the lives of the poor. Each year the group decides on a focus and researches organizations that work in a particular area or community. This year, the group is focusing on projects to help children at a primary school in Manavgat, Turkey, an area that was devastated by the fires in July and August 2021. Students will educate the TASIS community about how natural disasters have increased poverty in this area and will be involved in projects to benefit children at the school.
Bee Club will focus on the vital role bees play in maintaining our planet’s ecosystem. We will speak with beekeepers and bee conservationists to understand the problems facing bees and what we can do in our local area to protect and encourage these important pollinators. Students should be prepared to get crafty. We will be learning to make a range of bee related products to raise money for bee conservation, such as beeswax lip balm, candles, and food wraps. We will also learn how to make handmade recycled paper infused with wildflower seeds and a hotel for Mason bees.
Grade 8: Global Community
The primary goal for the Social Action group is to consider how we can be more effective advocates for equality both at TASIS and in our community. Our work begins by listening to personal stories from a diverse group of people from our TASIS community and beyond. The group discusses these experiences and learns empathy and understanding as we construct a variety of approaches that our group can implement in order to advocate for equality at TASIS, in our hometowns and communities, and in our world.
Students explore, discuss, and research many of the fundamental issues that impact people all over the world, including poverty, access to education, gender equality, ethical purchasing, and public health/disease prevention. Through discussion, news analysis, interviews, and presentations, students deepen their understanding and raise awareness about organizations that are working to combat these problems. Students recognize that in addition to the responsibilities they have in their own countries, everyone shares the responsibility of improving human conditions around the world.
Hope and Homes for Children
Hope and Homes for Children works to improve the lives of children, orphans, and families in Romania. Students learn about Romanian culture, the country’s rich history, and the series of events that led to the current state of its child protection and welfare system—and discuss what we can do to help. In the past, TASIS has raised funds to improve conditions in Romanian orphanages.
Saveurs dedicates itself to nurturing human relationships with the natural world. The group aims to develop a taste for and knowledge of how we as humans can participate in the natural world in healthy and sustainable ways. Members of this group educate themselves about environmental issues and share their knowledge with the TASIS community. Additionally, the group seeks to serve at the local and cantonal levels through organizations like ProNatura and in national and global events like Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, and Earth Day.
Open to All Grade Levels
The Green Heart Group
This year, two groups have decided to join forces to create a fantastic opportunity for middle school students to develop their environmental knowledge. Students will visit Lake Muzzano to learn about a conservation project close to campus. They will also help create and nurture a campus garden as they consider who might benefit from receiving plants, trees, flowers, or vegetables, which will determine what they grow or propagate. From tending to the School vegetable and herb garden to planting seeds that will eventually become flowers, this group will learn about the life cycle of plants and will see how the gift of something green can make people happier and healthier. They will also make a special presentation to the middle school about Earth Day. Finally, the group will sponsor fundraisers to benefit the TASIS garden, ProNatura, and other environmental organizations.
This group focuses on using individual skills, strengths, and ideas to contribute to successful event planning. They host events for their Middle School peers, working as a team to execute these events smoothly and troubleshoot any complications. Students gain organizational and leadership skills while learning about the importance of service to others and their community.
Student Council includes elected representatives from all three grade levels. The group is responsible for creating positive connections between students and faculty along with raising the profile of the Middle School at TASIS. They organize events and assemblies. Students have the opportunity to make changes in the Middle School and serve as the voice of their peers. They also develop their leadership, communication (especially public speaking), and IT skills.
For more information, please contact MS Service Learning Coordinator MJ Breton.
Elementary School Service Learning
Service Learning in the Elementary School works closely with the programs in the Middle School and High School. The goal is to build a cohesive program in which the learning of our youngest students may be tracked through our oldest students. The Service Learning program strives to make students aware of the issues that surround them at a local and global level. Each grade level will work closely with a specific organization. Some of these are related to those of the MS and HS; however, some were proposed by faculty members and TASIS families. Each year, students will be able to experience different service work and their level of involvement will deepen.
Examples of Recent Elementary School Service Learning Projects
Pre-K has worked with Post Pals, a UK-based charity that brightens the lives of terminally ill children by sending cards and letters. The Pre-K team has their students bring back postcards from their travels and then write notes of encouragement, support, and friendship to sick children identified by the charity. Pre-K students also make homemade holiday cards to sell at the Christmas market and donate the proceeds to Save the Children.
Kindergarten has collaborated with the HS Serving Africa group. They host the High School students in their classrooms and help the older students prepare for the teaching they will do on their global service trip to Zambia. Kindergarten students also focus on the role of medical care in countries throughout Africa, using the book Mimi’s Village to learn about this topic.
Grade 1 has partnered with Hope and Homes for Children Romania. They hold a clothing drive to collect items for the HS students to take with them on their trip in June. Using geography skills, first grade students find Romania on a map and explore differences between Romania and Switzerland. This gives students an opportunity to expand their worldview and practice the ES CARES skills—especially cooperation and empathy.
Grade 2 has learned about the huge impact that small microloans can have on a community, using the book One Hen. The story tells of a boy who buys a hen with a microloan and then earns money by selling its eggs. This money enables him to afford to go to school. The second graders put microloans into action by borrowing money from the school to create crafts, toys, books, and other small goods. These goods are then sold at a market. After paying back the loan, all additional proceeds are donated to charity.
Grade 3 has visited a local toy hospital, Ospedale del Giocattolo, to see how this charity fixes broken toys to donate to children in need. Students are able to take part in repairs as well. After visiting the charity, the third grade organizes donation bins to encourage students to donate old, broken, or unwanted toys. These toys are then given to the Ospedale del Giocattolo, where they are given new life and donated to less-fortunate children.
Grade 4 has learned about the importance of composting and reducing food waste to reduce pollution in water, air, and on land. The fourth grade works with the TASIS kitchen staff to learn how they prepare meals and deal with food waste as a school. Students weigh and track food waste in the Hadsall cafeteria to encourage others not to waste food and learn how to compost that food waste. Students also plant and take care of a garden using the compost created by the previous year's fourth grade.
Grade 5 has worked with Unitas, a local association for the blind and visually impaired. Students meet visually impaired individuals to learn about their experience of the world without sight. They then create sensory blankets for visually impaired children to sit on and tactile booklets to help them understand the characteristics of different places in the world. (For example, the characteristics of a lake could be described as cold, wet, deep, waves, fish, swans, etc.) These are then donated to Unitas.
In addition to the books provided at various grade levels, students now have access to many service-themed books in the Elementary School libraries to help them further explore these and other topics. Our goal in the ES is to build a foundation for success in the High School's Opsahl Global Service Program.
Please contact ES Service Learning Coordinator Laurent Carsana with any questions.
In this poignant essay, Sarah Wexler Brodie ’24 discusses how her Opsahl Global Service Program trip to Nepal has left her forever changed.
Fourteen members of TASIS The American School in Switzerland's 67th graduating class earned special recognition at the 2023 Commencement Ceremony. Learn about this year's recipients.
Seventeen TASIS students and four faculty chaperones traveled to Zambia and Botswana from June 9–22 for the Serving Southern Africa trip, an integral part of the School’s pioneering Opsahl Global Service Program. Vitor Mendes chronicled the action throughout the two-week trip and put together a powerful video that is not to be missed.
After learning about the history of Nepal and the plight of Tibetan refugees in weekly meetings throughout the school year, 13 TASIS High School students and three faculty chaperones traveled to the mountainous nation for two weeks in April. Their insightful letters home paint a picture of a journey that was nothing short of life-changing.
Each spring, the TASIS High School Faculty selects three service-minded students from grade 11 to receive the Junior Awards. Read about this year's recipients.
More than 50 members of the TASIS community completed the 8th annual Walk for Water on the afternoon of May 6 in an effort to simulate what many people in the developing world must go through on a daily basis to secure clean water.
Movement Outreach student leader Alexia Dochnal '22 reports on an exciting addition to the TASIS Service Learning Program and discusses the program's new structure, which requires all 10th-grade students to serve the local community for a full year.
Skye Rourke '20 looks back at the Global Service Program trip she made to Ulgii, Mongolia, last June and discusses how its impact has only grown stronger with the passage of time.
TASIS opened the holiday season in style with a wonderful Holiday Market and Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the afternoon and evening of December 6. Learn what made this year's event stand out.
More than 40 members of the TASIS community ignored cold and rainy conditions in their quest to complete the 7th annual Walk for Water on the afternoon of May 8, helping raise CHF 200 for clean water initiatives.
Seven TASIS students and two faculty leaders spent the first half of their spring holiday in Rîșcova, Moldova, where they worked closely with EcoVisio Moldova to implement a number of community initiatives. Read a recap of this year's trip and watch an excellent video created by Iris Kaymak '20.
TASIS Elementary School Teacher Matthew James Friday discusses his first Global Service Program trip to Ethiopia, a journey defined by smiles, love, and important life lessons. We also hear from two fifth-grade students who have previously worked with Nuovo Fiore Ethiopia.
Airi Barnes '20 and Zawadiyah Tolliver '20 express their gratitude for all that they learned on this year's Global Service Program trip to Odisha, India.
The TASIS community bids a fond farewell to Zach Mulert, who arrived at TASIS in 2011 and has directed the School's Global Service Program since its inception in 2013. Veteran teacher and service leader Danny Schiff looks forward to the challenge of stepping into his new role.