Community Service in the Lower School
PK through fourth grade service-learning projects are grade-wide and homeroom-based. Fifth grade students are given a choice of service-learning topics. In addition to their curricular integration in every grade, the projects teach students about the meaning of service, introduce them to the communities in which they live and reinforce co-curricular themes of compassion, respect, and responsibility.
Students regularly make sandwiches for Martha’s Table, counting their numbers to tally how many people have been fed and learning, in age-appropriate discussions, about issues of hunger. Families deliver the sandwiches to the food kitchen.
The kindergarten class visits with seniors at a local retirement home, creating inter-generational relationships and learning patience, compassion, and the pros and cons of aging.
First graders partner with preschoolers at the Apple Tree Early Childhood Center. During their visits, they focus on reading and writing with their young buddies, reinforcing their own developing skills. Their visits also help students develop important social and communication skills.
As a component of their social studies and science curriculum, students become caretakers of the Canal behind the school. As they study the history and ecology of the area, they do a variety of tasks necessary for protecting the environment, including trash removal and invasive species removal.
Over the years, third grade teachers have developed an ongoing partnership with the model bilingual preschool CentroNía for a project that is integrated into the social studies and language curricula. Third graders visit their buddies four times and then host a final celebration at GDS. Most of the children and staff at CentroNía are non-native English speakers who have immigrated or have family still living in other countries. GDS teachers emphasize the students’ experiences when discussing issues of immigration and different cultures in their social studies and language classes. Students in Spanish classes create basic Spanish-language books for their buddies.
As a component of the environmental studies/ecology curriculum, the fourth grade focuses on in-school paper recycling and promotes other ways that we can all increase our energy awareness. In addition, the school’s “celebrations” are times for service. Students learn that giving to others, particularly those in our community who are hungry, is as rewarding as their traditional parties have been.
Fifth graders take part in a two-pronged approach to service:
Service Learning: Fifth graders study social justice areas over the course of the year: Children’s Rights, Immigration, Hunger, and Going Green. Meeting in regular seminars, students research and discuss their chosen to topic and visit with experts at sites around the area. They also investigate issues of discrimination. Their work culminates with four days of service and advocacy.
Community Service: Fifth graders also participate in one of five weekly in-school service projects. GDS Mediators resolve first- and second-grade playground conflicts. Green Team members collect the cans and bottles for recycling. Lower School Assistants offer office and classroom help during lunch-time. GDS Hunger Helpers run monthly food drives. GDS Fifth Grade Newsletter students write weekly letters about fifth grade events.