Mr. Keller is a teacher and Ms. Robbins is a Guidance Counselor at South Newton High School in Indiana. Together they said they “value service in our community. We want our community to be the best it can be, and the only way for us to reach that is by teaching our students the value of pride and caring for it.”
After using the Bedtime Bags unit, Mr. Keller and Ms. Robbins modified the lessons to create the service-learning project Break Bags. Over 200 9-12th graders participated in this service project. The students brought in goods and used donated money to purchase goods to create a bags of toy, educational materials, crafts, and personal health items for disadvantaged elementary students.
Mr. Keller and Ms. Robbins focused on Learning to Give lessons that shared why it was important to give back to the community. This led to discussions on why people may become homeless or live below the poverty line. Then, the students brainstormed ways that they could help students in need.
The 9-12th graders put together the bags after researching the appropriate grade level academic materials for elementary students, proper health supplies, and local stores and organizations that could help the project. Groups of students shopped, collected materials, and packed bags with materials. The bags also included personal cards and messages for each student recipient.
Students worked together to determine the needs of elementary students and displayed leadership by being selected as leaders from their individual PRIDE groups. The selected students then led their peers in putting together the bags and choosing how to decorate and supplement the materials.
Jen said, “By doing this activity, I was able to learn that not everyone that we see in our everyday lives has the [same] privileges as others. I was able to learn how much work goes into doing activities like making Break Bags. To make the Break Bags, I used teamwork. This teamwork that I used to make the bags can be used every day to work with those around me in other group projects, or to talk to them in general.”
The goal of this service project was to introduce students to poverty in the community and ways that they could help those in need. They also introduced the many different organizations working to combat poverty. “We wanted our students to actually physically feel the power of putting together the bags for students. Many of our students described feeling a sense of pride in this project,” Mr. Keller and Ms. Robbins said.
“The biggest emotional outcome I had from this was realizing how some kids don't have it good at home, don't get the things they want, and we take advantage of that a lot. Being able to help a child for the holidays and make them smile was moving for myself,’ said Ben.
Ms. Robbins and Mr. Keller plan to take this service experience and make it a yearly project. They hope to have students create their own service projects in the second semester, and to use Learning to Give’s resources to help influence that.
“I think doing small projects like this and giving back to the community is extremely important, so we don’t lose sight of what is most important. Teenagers are selfish and we need to get back to the roots of everyone wanting to give even if it means they do not get anything physical in return,” reflected Sarah.