Last Friday’s annual morning of service at DCD in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. showed there are no age requirements for kindness and compassion. Students spent the morning engaging in age-appropriate service activities, from the youngest in pre-K to eighth-graders who are getting ready to move on to high school, finding meaningful ways to serve others as the focus of the morning.
Most of the projects extend beyond the day itself, taking place throughout the year, including on five middle-school service afternoons. Pre-kindergarteners made cat and dog treats for the ARL and decorated canisters to hold the treats. Kindergarten students designed birthday bags for residential students at the Walker School, which serves children with complex emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges. They also responded to the “I have a dream speech” with dreams of their own for animal rights, kindness, health, and no homeless, among others.
Whether cheering up patients at Children’s Hospital with handmade coloring books and crayons, walking to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation, or making books on tape for multi-lingual children learning English to pass on the gift of reading, students learned the importance of extending themselves to help others.
Middle-schoolers have the autonomy to decide which projects to undertake, some choosing to make Valentine cards for seniors, fast for Oxfam, or help the environment. Members of the Green Club have been working on recycling on campus as well as taking action to ban plastic bags in Dedham, designing a logo to go on reusable bags they plan to distribute to the town’s residents, putting their dreams into action through research, planning, and collaboration.
In each of these projects, they learned valuable skills as well as solidified their commitment to being good citizens. Service-learning co-coordinators Colleen Hultgren and Dan Balk, who led the day’s activities and the closing assembly, have been working over the past year to make service a true learning experience for students. Whether applying technology to create a logo or calling suppliers for pricing of reusable bags, as the Green Team did, the goal is for each project to be a meaningful learning experience for the students in addition to addressing a need in the community.