Reflections on a Day of Service

PHOTO BY ANDY DUBACKReflections on a Day of Service

by Sue Blair

On Tuesday, May 10, students at the Sustainability Academy, along with teachers, parents, neighbors, and community members participated in our Second Annual Day of Service.  It was powerful to see every student in a school participating in meaningful service-learning projects: painting murals, building compost piles, cleaning up the campus, planting an ABC garden, building bat houses, painting rain barrels, replanting peace gardens, and so much more.  Everywhere you looked children were busy making a difference.

 The highlight of the day for me was watching the youngest students in our school making such a big contribution.  For my Kindergarten class, the day of service was our culminating activity in our year-long theme and study of “community helpers.”  It also reflected a shift in my teaching.  I wanted students to “own their work”, and make deeper interdisciplinary curriculum connections. I wanted students to know that their ideas mattered.  By modifying Shelburne Farms’ curriculum framework Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids for use with younger children, we moved our study of community from the classroom to the neighborhood.  First, we drew maps of our neighborhood and identified the names of some of the streets near the school and their homes.  Then, we met with community helpers who work hard to make our neighborhood a safe, happy, and healthy place for all to live. Finally, we began to think about how each child could be a community helper.

Students decided it was important for our neighborhood and schoolyard to have animals and plants, to be clean, and to have safe places for kids to play.  Students were interested in assessing and improving these aspects of our neighborhood and school community.  Students then went on neighborhood walks to evaluate if the neighborhood and schoolyard were clean, had animals and plants, and safe places to play.  Following the walks, students brainstormed projects the class could do on the Day of Service to meet the needs that they had uncovered on their walks.  Students planned to create a shade garden that would provide a habitat for animals, to build two sandboxes for kids to play in (our school didn’t have any), and organized a neighborhood clean-up.  The projects were completed on our Day of Service and the students were thrilled at the difference they made in our community.

Instead of just learning about community helpers, students learned that “We All Can Be Community Helpers!”  Students are excited to play in their new sandboxes, to water and take care of the garden they planted, and to keep our schoolyard clean. They shared their ideas, worked hard, and made a big difference.  Their pride in their work is evident. The sandboxes and gardens will make our schoolyard a better place for humans and animals, but the most important transformation is the students’ emerging awareness that they can make a difference.PHOTO BY ANDY DUBACK

Sue Blair teaches Kindergarten at Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes Elementary School in Burlington, VT


This article appeared in SSP's Spring 2011 Newsletter.

Download the PDF of the article here.

Download the entire Spring 2011 Newsletter here.



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