One of the imperatives in the work with teachers was to ease their preparation time – to give them a model that could be incorporated without a lot of research and development. Our choice of cooperating non-profit partner was the Violence Intervention Safe House. Homeless shelters are an easy switch in the sample model we created for immediate use. The opportunity to work on a creative project with elementary school children for our local Violence Intervention Program Safe House staff turned out to be especially valuable as they must document education contact hours to receive state funding for their program.
Second graders created gift bags for children and teens in the Violence Intervention Program Safe House. Middle school students made the bags and joined with second graders to help complete the gift bags.
One of the interesting aspects of working with young children and their parents is a striking willingness – an eagerness – to work together. When this project was shared with parents along with a list of needed supplies, parents and children brought supplies to the classroom. One might well ask, but what if our community does not have families with these resources. As we join our children nationwide at each grade level those areas that do not have needed supplies can identify themselves and communities with more resources will offer to help. Our children and their parents will easily see this logic that often seems illusive in our adult relationships. There will be a channel of communication seen through the lens of values and how we want to raise our children. With young children at the helm of this work it is hard for any adult to resist supporting them in this work. Once this work is in full swing there is no doubt that local and national companies will join the effort to show themselves on this page with us.
Beyond Second Grade
Service projects under the topic shelter address items that are typically found in a home, things like clothing and beds, or if living on the street, access to food, storage, and personal hygiene. The details we may take for granted have become the substance of projects that help others in need in ways we may not have considered.
As a community member or older student we will self-educate at first. We may look at the list below which covers needs others found in their community and know it is also a need in our community. We may instead wonder if there is a homeless shelter in our community.
Service learning will be educating our youth that conversation with the staff of our non-profits is essential to building projects of value and establishing relationships. Our community based organizations are often desperate for our involvement. Their time is so needed for the populations they serve and yet they need to take time to create fund raisers to support their work and our awareness that they exist. This service initiative gives them ongoing engagement and connection to community members for support.
As our children work in year long service areas with staff of these organizations they will come to know the staff and the needs in this area in their community. By second grade, our youth will already have developed an educated vision of their community and how things work – who to contact, what is needed, considerations to keep in mind. The idea that we turn to these young children for information, that we turn to them as leaders in this area for the community, will begin to make sense from many vantage points. When we have an interest or idea, they become the communicators with the shelter because they have an ongoing monthly dialogue with shelter staff. Whenever we engage or disengage in project work, they need this information to update the community checklist under shelter.
Shelter Topic Areas: