Meeting Basic Needs

​January/February 2005

Sherry Unger Award Winner

Third Graders, Cedarmere Elementary School, Baltimore County

Contact:  Judy O’Connell

Brief project description (50 words or less):

The third graders at Cedarmere Elementary School organized a clothing, toiletries, and food drive for the families living in the Hannah More Shelter in Reisterstown, Maryland. Third graders helped to design the fliers that were sent home to the student body of the school. They also encouraged contributions by writing and then reading announcements on the school intercom several times a week. Students organized donations as they came into the classroom.

Best Practice 1:  What recognized community need was met by your project?

Our third graders addressed a health need by collecting basic items for people living in a shelter.  Our students also made others aware of the issue of homelessness and the impact it has on people.  We determined this was a need that we should and could work on because our school population of homeless children has started to rise.   Our goal was to help the families living in the Hannah More Shelter in Reisterstown that is in our community.

Best Practice 2:  How was the project connected to school curriculum?

Our project was connected to the curriculum through language arts and math. Students listened to stories about homelessness and wrote about people who are homeless.  We also made a large chart of our opinions and thoughts about people who are homeless when the project was first initiated.  At the end of the project, we completed another opinion chart to identify changes in our attitudes toward people who are homeless.  Students also wrote and read announcements over the intercom to encourage all students to contribute items for the shelter.
During our third grade service-learning project we addressed the following course objectives for the Voluntary State Curriculum.


  1. Develop a conceptual understanding of new words
  2. Understand, acquire, and use new vocabulary
  3. Develop comprehension skills
  4. Use strategies to demonstrate understanding of the text
  5. Identify and explain the author's use of language


  1. Write to express personal ideas


  1. Measurement
  2. Number computation
  3. Estimation

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

Students reflected on their project periodically through discussions.  Some students wrote journal entries and others wrote their reflection at the end of the project. They described their service-learning project, what they learned and how their feelings and attitudes had changed concerning people who are homeless.

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

Students were responsible for organizing the donated items.  They separated toiletries, clothing, and food items.  They also wrote and read morning announcements over the school intercom to encourage contributions.

Best Practice 5:  What community partners did you work with on this project?

Most of the donations came from families in the community.  The Hannah More Shelter was our community partner and recipient of our donations.

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

To plan and prepare for this service-learning project we contacted the Hannah More Shelter to understand the needs of the families in the shelter.  We planned a timeline for the project and then prepared fliers for all Cedarmere students to take home. Areas of the curriculum were discussed to see where and how the project could be infused. Many of the classes saw the video Shelter Boy. Space was cleared to house the contributions as they arrived.

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

Students improved skills and knowledge in math and language arts.  The project also had impact on their character development.  Most of the students developed better reading and writing skills while working on journals, announcements for the intercom, and other reflections. Students also developed vocabulary skills as they were introduced through stories. As the project progressed, students learned responsibility as they collected and organized the donations. The most obvious lesson came at the end of the project when students compared their initial thoughts and feelings about people who are homeless to their new learning and understanding of the issue of homelessness.