LearnServe program helps 5th graders launch their social ventures for positive change.
“We believe in the power of young people to create change.”
This year, 5th grade students have embarked on a three-cycle journey to develop their social entrepreneurial capacities. It’s been a journey for the teaching team as well. Teachers Judy Brown, Gary Cutler, Luisa Myavec, Reed Thompson, and Bryan Williams—supported by computer science and innovation teacher Elvin Peprah—have crafted a developmentally appropriate framework based on a program from LearnServe International. The empowering, GDS-like statement above comes from LearnServe's vision statement. The statement further articulates: “LearnServe International equips middle and high school students from diverse backgrounds with the entrepreneurial vision, tenacity, confidence, and leadership skills needed to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.” from which students design their social ventures around the topics they have studied. The 5th grade team boldly redesigned the curriculum for these younger students.
This fall, students learned about literacy as well as negative, systemic cycles resulting from illiteracy. Following their weeks-long research, students decided to work on four distinct service projects:
A community letter writing campaign, seeking to enlist members of Congress to provide resources to children of incarcerated parents. Students prepared pre-addressed envelopes to Senators Ben Cardin, Tim Kaine, and Chris Van Hollen, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, and others. Some crafted their own form letters for faculty and students in other grade levels to lend their voices to the campaign. As of 12:00 p.m. on Friday, more than 25 letters had been collected, and the team is hoping to collect many more as a result of their recent presentations to Middle School advisory groups.
A book drive supporting Turning the Page, an organization providing books to families without. They organized and publicized a drive involving every Lower School grade level. They visited each classroom to collect books. As of 12:00 p.m. on Friday, more than 850 books have been collected, and the team is hoping to break 1,000 books by the book drive deadline on Wednesday, December 19.
A hot chocolate sale to raise money for a Martha’s Table library. Students organized their sale during a staff appreciation breakfast. Students raised $50 in one hour!
A bake sale to raise funds for the Washington Literacy Center, an organization supporting DC residents with the greatest barriers to literacy and the fewest resources. These items were on sale throughout the day on Friday. As of 12:00 p.m. on Friday, the lobby was swarming with eager supporters of the fundraiser. The tally quickly broke the $100 mark. The team was hopeful they would double that figure by 3:00 p.m.
Elvin Peprah explained that the exciting, student-centered program has kept the teachers evolving lessons even as the cycle is underway. “In some ways, we are building the ship while we are sailing. The program has allowed us to be innovative about the way we are working with students: to consider how we are delivering content and our end goals. The teaching team used a retreat day for brainstorming just as the kids are now brainstorming to determine their social ventures. It’s been rewarding to support them in becoming social entrepreneurs.”
Fifth graders will have two more chances this year to study a social challenge and innovate solutions. Stay tuned for updates!
Staff writer Danny Stock tells the stories of teaching, learning, competing, creating, and performing at Georgetown Day School. He is a former GDS second grade teacher and current parent.
Georgetown Day School is a coed, preK-12, non-sectarian private school in Washington, DC with small class sizes and a diverse school community. Our comprehensive, innovative curriculum includes hands-on learning, honors and AP classes, as well as advanced-level math and STEM courses. An education is not just college prep and SAT scores. GDS teachers focus on providing the best education for each child, from elementary grades through high school. The school performing arts program includes theater, dance, and music. The athletics program offers competitive sports for student athletes, including cross-country, track, soccer, lacrosse, and crew/rowing. With our strong commitment to financial aid, an independent school tuition is affordable.