Learning new skills and meeting community needs through service learning is a year-long commitment for our students and our staff -- a tradition that stretches back decades in our school district.

Service learning is an important part of whole learning, a priority in the new strategic plan for Upper Arlington Schools.

It is intentionally the first action word in our vision -- uniquely accomplished students prepared to serve, lead and succeed. It also speaks to all our values: start with heart, strength in team and contagious drive.

Service learning gives students an opportunity to meet a real community need that connects back to what they're learning in the classroom.

They gain an understanding about things that are bigger than themselves and are able to take away a lifelong lesson of the importance of serving others.

We have so many incredible service-learning projects unfolding in our schools all the time. I'll share an example that recently brought together students from across many grade levels.

The story begins last school year at Tremont Elementary School, when first-grade teacher Pam Bergen's students did an in-depth service-learning project with the Alzheimer's Association and a local memory care center. Her students gained understanding of memory loss and empathy for individuals experiencing it. The students sent the senior citizens living at the memory care center crafts and artwork last school year.

Fast forward to this fall, when Pam reunited her class from last year to go to meet the senior citizens that they had been providing "whooshes of joy."

Upper Arlington High School teacher Amanda Fountain and some of her broadcast students came along to create a video documenting the trip but also ended up connecting with the younger students and learning from everyone involved.

The Tremont students had a great visit with their senior-citizen friends. They shared jokes and delivered fidget blankets. The blankets brought students from two more schools -- Hastings and Jones middle schools -- into the project.

It was an incredible experience for everyone involved. Amanda summed it by saying: "Pam Bergen is amazing. The depth of learning, compassion, and contributions that her students made through their exploration of Alzheimer's is life changing. When (students') hearts and minds are aligned through quality service learning my heart sings."

We have many, many more incredible examples of service-learning projects like this happening in our schools. It truly does make our hearts sing to see our students of all ages learning to care for and about others.

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of Upper Arlington Schools. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.