Community Service

The concept of a shared civic responsibility, one of the core principals of our democratic society, underlies the Campus School’s approach to community service. Community service at SCCS involves taking responsibility for our community, which includes the physical and natural environment, as well as materially and emotionally helping those who are in need.

In kindergarten, community service is often generated by one or more families’ professional and personal relationships. For example, kindergarteners have collected winter outerwear for distribution through the Holyoke Health Center. In previous years, the clothing drive has begun with a discussion with the children about how they need to dress warmly when they go outside to play and how there are children in the larger community who are in need of warm clothing. This connection resonates with kindergarteners. Teachers also explain that being a member of the SCCS community entails participating in community service. Working in pairs, children have made posters to publicize the drive and placed these around the school along with cartons to collect the clothing. As clothing came in, kindergarteners worked hard to count and sort the clothes, first according to type then according to size. They then took inventory and packed the clothing for delivery. During one clothing drive, kindergarteners collected eight twenty-gallon bags full of warm winter clothes.

Community service in the first grade has been intimately connected to the Great Changers curriculum. This curriculum focuses on writing poetry and creating artwork about women and men who have worked in non-violent ways to change our world. This activity offers students the opportunity to practice using their writers’ voice to inspire and educate others about important history. With this in mind, the poems and artwork have been used to create cards that are sold to families. The experience of creatively expressing their ideas and feelings inspired by the Great Changers and seeing their work reproduced to share with friends and family is a powerful experience. The money raised has been used to purchase pieces of art that engage the larger school community and serve as a reminder of the work of the Great Changers. In years past, first graders purchased a Rosa Parks painting by Richard Yard, which is hanging in the front hallway of the school. They also purchased a sculpture by James Kitchen to celebrate peace. It is installed in the yard behind the school where children play and pass by it each day.

Community service in second grade has been similarly connected to curriculum as the children assume the role of school-wide recyclers. Every day teams of second graders have gathered their equipment—gloves, buckets, and clipboards – and walked through the school. They gathered recyclable containers from each classroom and kept tallies of the categorized materials consisting of glass, plastic, metal, and other. Collection involved mathematical problem solving as students figured out how to keep track of the materials in each category, recording first daily then weekly totals using tally marks. Both classes have visited a recycling center to see what happens to the recycled materials after it leaves the school. Outside recyclers, (including “Pedal People”), a garbage collection company that uses bicycles instead of trucks, have come and spoken to the classes. At the end of the year, second graders have carefully calculated the grand totals and shared this information with the school during Earth Day celebrations, which has included cleaning up the environment around the school. As part of this curriculum, the two classrooms also have raised money to contribute to conservation projects. For example, one year the money went to buying reusable sandwich bags to give to new families entering kindergarten.

Third graders, as part of their river study, have worked with the Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Program hatching and raising young salmon and then releasing them in the Mill River. As a form of community service, this cooperative environmental education program has been designed to promote stewardship of our natural resources. Sometime in February, an official from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife comes to the Campus School to drop off the eggs and talk with the students. The eggs and later young salmon are kept in an aquarium in the hallway and monitored by students and teachers. The most powerful and engaging moments for third graders have occured first when the eggs hatch and later as the students solemnly release the young salmon into the mini rapids along the river’s edge.

Fourth graders have engaged in community service during Halloween by collecting money for UNICEF. They have discussed the work UNICEF does and how the organization helps provide for the basic needs of people including food, shelter, medicine, and education. The idea that education constitutes a basic need is discussed and scenarios are imagined where children couldn’t go to school. Fourth graders have made posters publicizing information about where the money goes and, of particular interest to them, how a small amount of money can make a big impact. They have visited each classroom to share what they are doing, hand out collection boxes, and encourage everyone to participate. Each year some children get so engaged they go beyond what is expected, donating their own money or seeking out donations in alternative settings. After Halloween each year, the fourth graders have collected the boxes and begun the task of counting the donations in the process solidify their understanding of addition algorithms. They first counted the money in each box and recorded the results. Next they sorted the money according to denomination, organized it in arrays, recount and record the results. In one recent year a check for over $1700.00 was sent off to UNICEF.

Inspired by the Reach Out and Read program, fifth graders have organized a book drive. A few years ago a parent in one of the classes who was a doctor at the Holyoke Health Center noticed that at the clinic donated books were being given to infants and toddlers but older siblings were leaving empty handed. This problem has resonated with the fifth graders and led to the first fifth grade book drive. This community service project has begun with a local pediatrician talking to the fifth graders about the origins of the Reach Out and Read program and why it is so valuable. Fifth graders have then made presentations in each of the classrooms describing the book drive and how to participate. They created posters to place around the school. As books arrived at the various collection boxes, fifth graders collected and counted the books. They also made individual labels with a personal note to place inside each book. Finally, the books have been packed and donated to Holyoke Health Center where they are distributed to families and children who come to the clinic.

Community service in the sixth grade has historically changed from year to year. For example, one of the classrooms began a relationship with the residents at the Lathrop home. During their first visit, sixth graders played bingo, shared snack, and interviewed the elderly residents. This was a very powerful experience for both groups. The residents thoroughly enjoyed the attention and energy of the sixth graders. For the sixth graders, the visit challenged some of their assumptions about elderly people as it offered an opportunity to interact with a population that some of the students haven’t experienced. Over the course of the year, sixth graders periodically returned to further develop relationships with individual residents. Another example of community service in the sixth grade involved working in a local community garden. This idea of gardening as a form of community service was inspired by the novel “Seedfolks” by Paul Fleishman, which was the class’ first read aloud book. Through the connections of one of the Smith College student teachers, the sixth graders visited a community garden/farm in Holyoke run by Nuestras Raíces, a grass roots organization that promotes economic, human and community development. One of the gardeners acted as a guide and shared with the students the history of the garden. Sixth graders then weeded a section of the farm with great enthusiasm and effort, and used what they collected to feed some animals. After returning to school, the sixth graders wrote letters to the gardeners describing what this experience meant to them and thanking them for the experience.

These are but some of the ways that SCCS has historically engaged in community service. Over the course of their education at SCCS, students gain a repertoire of shared experiences of community service that help them to develop a sense of civic participation and responsibility.


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