Ms. D'Antonio is the Coordinator of Partnership & Internship Programs and Ms. Robbins is a teacher at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST) in Georgia. “Our students are extremely motivated and high achieving,” said D’Antonio. “What our Service-Learning program aims to do is to teach these students that ‘it's not what you know, it's what you do with what you know!’ We facilitate experiences through an IPARC model- Investigation, Project Planning, Action, Reflection, and Celebration with the goal for the students to see community service as transformational, rather than transactional.”
A group of 65 high school students participated in the service-learning project Tutu Capers 2 after using the Nonprofits in Our World and Community lesson as inspiration. The GSMST Service-Learning cohort hosted an event where students made tutus and superhero capes for the organization “Tutucapers.” Tutucapers is an organization that delivers tutus and capes to children in hospitals, foster homes, and in long-term care programs.
Before making the tutus and capes, the class researched Play Therapy and designed an educational outreach piece by making posters that presented positive Play Therapy statistics. After that, the organization’s founder met with the class for a small group session of making the tutus and capes and to speak with them about how she became involved in the organization. Ms. D'Antonio and Ms. Robbins felt that, “her involvement lent a first-person perspective and motivated the students to take action.”
During the research phase, students were able to choose which stations they wanted to work in, including: Sewing (both teaching & learning), Preparation (measuring, cutting, and preparing fabrics and designing and creating gift tags), or Public Relations (video announcement and event flyers). Each station group had a project leader and students had the ability to work in more than one group at a time, if they chose to do so.
Students even attended an after-school event where they worked individually and in pairs to cut and make knots in tulle fabric around an elastic band to create over sixty-five tutus along with six capes! During the event, students displayed leadership through running event check-in, working as table monitors, taking pictures, and selling concessions.
"Stress is a common problem seen in students when they are pressured with large workloads along with multiple assessments from each of their classes,” said one student. Tutu Capers was a phenomenal social event that allowed the students to relieve their stress while practicing their creative skills. This event gave students a convenient time and place after school to socialize while crafting tutus for a good cause. Making tutus gave students a creative outlet to practice and share among their peers. “With a variety of colors and easy instruction, Tutu Capers was a fun event!"
Throughout the course of the project, students used their research skills to learn about Play Therapy and applied their design skills to make posters and a bulletin board. After the project, students submitted a reflection articulating how they brought value to the project, what the outcome was, and how they could have contributed more to the project.
With the help of the Learning to Give mini-grant, the cohort was able to purchase fabric for the capes, tulle and elastic bands for the tutus, and Cricut machine supplies. The mini-grant allowed the project to go from a small project within the service-learning class to a large scale school-wide event.
"The event itself was great too. The organization was good, there seemed to be little to no obvious problems, and we got lots of tutus done,” reflected one student said.
The school plans to make this project a tradition, as this was the second year their Service-Learning cohort sponsored the event! “Overall, over sixty-five tutus along with six capes were made in order to bring joy and positivity into the lives of 65 children under these difficult circumstances,” said Ms. Robbins. This project empowered students to use their talents to make a positive difference in the lives of others in the community.