Ms. Schmierer is a special education teacher at Parkview Elementary in Wisconsin who said, “I think it is always a positive if kids can learn to reach outside of themselves to help others. It builds empathy and respect for different perspectives and experiences as well as can show kids they do not have to go through something by themselves--there are always helpers around.”Bare Necessities - Helping Others (Kindergarten), "Phil"-ing Good: Philanthropy Lesson (3rd), The Wants and Needs of Making a Difference, and "Phil"-ing Good, the students were able to learn about philanthropy and how they can help others in need.
For the project, each grade level of students participated in a different project. Students in K4-K5 made cards for the elderly who receive meals on wheels. The first and third graders made thank you cards for community first responders. Second graders made welcome bags for children when they enter a local homeless shelter and made freezer meals for a local domestic violence shelter. Volunteers from an Interfaith organization came to help the 2nd graders complete their projects. The students in 4th grade learned from a local women's group about how to turn plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless people. Then, they made "plarn" (string from plastic bags) for the women's' group to crochet into mats. Lastly, 5th grade students worked with a local nature center to do a clean up around the school and how to identify invasive plant called buckthorn.
Student choice and leadership was displayed by the 4th and 5th grade students being apart of the discussion of what project to assign to their classes. On the other hand, the younger grades showed independence in how they choose to decorate their projects.
With the help of the Learning to Give mini-grant, students were able to purchase food and supplies for freezer meals to donate to domestic violence shelter and items for welcome bags for children entering a local homeless shelter.
“The children learned that there are people in need right in their own community and that they can do something about it,” said Schmierer. “I think it also normalizes that it is OK if they are someone who needs help in the future or maybe has gone through some of the things we talked about.”
These service-learning projects provided an experience that was more than just sitting and listening, multi-sensory engagement was present in many of the projects. “Students learned about both of these local agencies and how they help people in our community and then students were able to make something tangible and valuable to give back,” said Ms. Schmierer. Ms. Schmierer hopes to make service an annual component to Parkview Elementary’s character day events which happen twice a school year.