Caring For Others

October & November 2006

Mechanicsville Elementary School Student Forum, Mechanicsville Elementary School (MES), St. Mary’s County, Barbara Cooksey Abell,

In order to increase students’ awareness of others and to develop their leadership skills, a number of community service-learning projects were conducted during the 2005-2006 school year.  The MES Principal’s Student Forum launched a Hurricane Katrina stuffed animals collection and a penny drive for the pre-school children in Louisiana and carried out projects for local veterans.

Best Practice 1:  What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?

Not only did the student forum members organize a stuffed animal collection drive for the Hurricane Katrina victims, but in addition, they made holiday cards and comfort kits for the local Charlotte Hall Veteran’s Home residents.  According to the principal from Bridge City Elementary School in Louisiana, Ms. Simone Duhon, her school suffered significant water and wind damage and the pre-kindergarten shed was blown away with the children’s tricycles and other toys.  At the local level, students learned that there are many veterans at the Charlotte Hall Veteran’s home with no family, so students decided to provide some comfort to them as well.

Our service projects have helped the devastated Bridge City Elementary School in Louisiana and our local Charlotte Hall Veteran’s Home.  After Hurricane Katrina, the Student Forum collected over 600 stuffed animals to send to the children impacted by the storm and started a penny drive to raise money to replace the pre-school shed that was blown away by the hurricane.  All of the classrooms generated “messages of hope” and “thinking of you” notes to send to the 400 children at Bridge city Elementary School.

Best Practice 2:  How was the project connected to school curriculum (e.g. what course outcomes were met and/or how did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning)?

The following classroom objectives were met through the project:

  • Students will understand the historical and current status of the fundamental concepts and processes of authority, power, and influence, with particular emphasis on democratic skills and attitudes necessary to become responsible citizens.
  • Students will understand how people in Maryland and the United States and around the world are alike and different.
  • Students will identify the economic principles and processes that are helpful to producers and consumers when making good decisions.

Best Practice 3: How did you reflect on your experience throughout the project?

Students gathered at bi-weekly meetings to determine the next steps of responsibility and caring services they wanted to accomplish.  Reflections and discussions centered around what went well and how improvements should and could be made.

Best Practice 4: How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project?

Students made cards, flyers, provided examples of student ambassadorship, and truly did whatever needed to be done to complete projects.  Their activities not only fostered student citizenship, but in addition, they learned about the importance of service to their school and community.  These activities help build essential life skills and competencies.  Learning how to present ideas, developing strong reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills were evidenced by students’ work.  Their excitement about current projects has been contagious and has built school spirit.  The students have learned how to listen to one another, plan courses of action, and to resolve differences peacefully.

Best Practice 5: What community partners did you work with on this project (e.g. non-profits, civic organizations, business that provided donations, etc.)?

Students have learned to work with the Red Cross, the Charlotte Hall Veteran’s Home, Parks and Recreation, the Sheriff’s Department, as well as the Parents, Students, Teachers Organization (PSTO) for MES.

Best Practice 6: How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project?

Students met with the principal in August before school started to learn the qualities of leadership and select projects for the upcoming school year.  Students also have assisted at every school function.  They even conducted the MES Open House and Back to School Night and introduce the staff members.

Best Practice 7: What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project?

I am most proud of what the students have accomplished this year.  Reaching students who don’t normally take on leadership roles and helping them learn to be student leaders has been especially rewarding.  There has been a direct correlation between Principal’s Student Forum Members and how well those students performed academically.  The students’ positive attitudes and “thinking of others” attitudes throughout the year has been noted by the entire school community.