Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Community Service Learning at the John Eliot Elementary School

By Mardy Claus, Eliot CSL Coordinator
Community Service Learning is in full swing here at Eliot. Throughout the fall we have had visitors from both Cradles to Crayons and Generic Ministry come and speak with our students in grades 3 - 5. They shared their missions; helping those in need. Their visits coincided with two community service learning projects that were taking place. Our annual clothing drive was in full swing when Julia Boyaval from Cradles to Crayons came to visit our school in October. Helping the children to understand the needs of others, she shared with them the activities that take place at Cradles to Crayons. Learning compassion and the benefit of giving to others what you no longer need, was a very powerful message for the students to receive. As you can see by the pictures below, the generosity of our Eliot community once again came shining through.  At the conclusion of the clothing drive we sent 60 bags of children's clothing, shoes, and boots to Cradles to Crayons. In addition to that several bags of men's clothing went to the Fort Square Presbyterian Church in Quincy, 15 bags of women's clothing to Rosie's Place in Boston and 6 bags of linens, mens and women's clothing to Circle of Hope here in Needham.

Sandwich Tuesday, an event that occurs every third Tuesday of each month that we are in school, is a very busy day at Eliot.  This community service learning activity involves the entire school. Each month the students in the KASE program decorate brown paper lunch bags. The first graders collect toothpaste, the second graders donate chap sticks and the third graders bring in clean pairs of socks.  All of these items are gathered along with sandwiches that are made by one of the fourth or fifth grade classrooms. The class of the month brings in all the ingredients needed to make the sandwiches and the students take about 30 minutes of their day to make on an average of 90 sandwiches that are distributed by Generic Ministry to the homeless in Boston.


 Back in October two gentlemen from Generic Ministry came to the Eliot and once again spoke with students in 3 - 5 grades.  They spoke of their mission to help those who live on the street in Boston. The children were touched by the compassionate work Generic Ministry does as they viewed the inside of the van full of many items that their clients might need at any given time.

Each month we chart all the items collected and display them on a bar graph in the lobby of the school. The class that prepares the sandwiches are asked to do a quick writing piece about the experiences.  Student voices are very powerful. Here are some of the students' thoughts.
    "It teaches a good lesson on how you don’t have to get anything back when you help someone, it’s a reward of its own."

"What I thought about Sandwich Tuesday is that we made a really big change to someone’s life.  A homeless person getting this sandwich could possibly change their day.  Even though we are only 9 and 10, we can still make a change."

"People like them are depending on us and have faith that people like us would help them. Sandwich Tuesday is a great thing."

"Helping others was extremely heart felt. I felt honored in doing that kind of thing and I’m still going to work on it. Who know making sandwiches was so fun?"

"Sandwich Tuesday really helps people understand that you shouldn’t think only for yourself, because there are people on the streets of Boston who feel not loved, hungry, cold and lonely.  I’m so glad that I can make an effort to help them feel better."

"No matter how old you are or how much money you have you an help so many in need. It will make you feel good about what you did, and it will make the other person feel good that you did it."

"Making sandwiches is the first step in my life to start making a difference."

"I felt really great about Sandwich Tuesday because we were making a difference in the world one step at a time."

 "My experience with making sandwiches for Sandwich Tuesday was amazing because when I was helping the people it made me feel like I was a better person.  It’s so much better to give than to get." 

Compassion for others seems to be a common thread throughout most of the community service learning projects that are done at Eliot. Tying into the Social and Emotional curriculum, these projects lend themselves to teaching our students to think about others and to realize how very fortunate they are to be a part of a community that truly cares for them and about their safety.
The Giving Project is an annual event during the holiday season that the faculty, staff and families of Eliot take part in.  It is a time when we can help to ensure that our own Eliot families in need receive gifts to help make their holidays special.  One such family expressed in an email to our guidance counselor, Mrs. Brenhiser, their thanks for the wonderful donations received. "I honestly just wanted to reach out and thank you, 2 weeks ago I was in tears of sadness, today I am happy they have a tree and toys under it. Thanks so very much, you are amazing." Truly validating this project's mission of compassion and helping those in need.

Last but by no means least, the Eliot students have started a correspondence with an Eliot alum serving in our armed forces. Collections of Halloween candy, and various toiletries have been sent to the troops. Holiday cards expressing their thankfulness for all the soldiers service have been mailed off. We anxiously await hearing back from them.

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