"I want my students to understand that there is more to this life than what can I get out of it," said Ms. Schneider, a teacher at Fennville Elementary in Michigan. "There is a whole world out there in need of acts of kindness, and I want my students to know the importance of thinking of others before thinking of self. I want them to be more aware of their community and know they have the potential to be a kind and supportive citizen of their community." 

After teaching the lesson Garden for Life to help her students learn about philanthropy, the group of 15 students, ranging in age from pre-k to 5th grade, listened to the story Wanda's Roses by Pat Brisson. "After the story, I asked them questions to see if they have a clear understanding of what a philanthropist is," said Ms. Schneider. 

"We discussed what it means to be a philanthropist, and I asked the students to tell me if they have ever been a philanthropist." One student shared how he wanted to pick up trash off the side of the road, and he asked his parents if he could do that. The parents decided that was a good family project.

The group talked about other things they could do to be a philanthropist to share acts of kindness in their community. Following a game of 20 questions, they discussed what flowers can mean to a person who receives them as a gift and what flowers do when you have them in a room or in a garden. 

From that lesson and activity, the students decided to complete a service-project called Flower Garden for Life. The students cleaned out the flower beds in front of the local Middle School and planted flowers. The principal and secretary were there to see the students in action and were so very appreciative of it that they sent a thank you card to the kids along with a gift bag full of bubble wands.

"One of my students wanted to give flowers to residents at the nursing facility his parents worked at," explained Ms. Schneider. "We decided to purchase clay pots for the students to paint, and then they planted flowers in the pots to give to the residents at the facility. The residents were so appreciative of the flowers!" 

As is necessary in the service-learning process, student voice and choice were present in the Flower Garden for Life project. The story and conversation about kindness and community sparked some ideas on ways the students could contribute acts of kindness in their community. "It was a team effort on coming up with the plan to make our school look brighter outside and a bonus that my students came up with the idea of giving flowers to the residents at Golden Orchards to brighten up their rooms and to cheer them up since they haven't seen family members and visitors for several months due to COVID-19," said Ms. Schneider. 

The $500 after-school program grant provided in partnership between Learning to Give, MASP and NYLC helped this group of students purchase gardening materials and acrylic paint to plant and gift flowers in their community.