Read to Feed/Sock Drive for People Who are Homeless

Thurmont Middle School, 7th grade language arts students, Frederick County, Melanie Ware

Students read articles on the problems of hunger and homelessness and completed activities which support Frederick County Public School's (FCPS) curriculum using the information they learned. Students participated in a read-a-thon where they were "paid" in canned food by sponsors for reading a certain number of minutes per night. My four classes alone raised over 600 cans of food for our local food bank; the entire 7th grade brought in more than 1200 cans of food. Next, guest speakers from the Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. came to our school for an excellent discussion on the topic of homelessness. Two men who had been homeless spoke to the students about their personal experience. Then, we watched United Streaming video clips on frostbite in a continued discussion of hardships of homelessness and again, used the information in activities which support FCPS curriculum. Lastly, we collected over 300 pairs of socks and mailed them to the Coalition to be distributed to the people who are homeless on the streets of our nation's capital. Students reflected on these experiences several times throughout the project.

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

Our reading specialist brought the need for canned food at our local food bank to our attention. The guest speakers from the Coalition for the Homeless called our attention to the need for socks for the people who are homeless.

Our local community which is a poor, white, rural community was helped by the canned food brought to the food bank. The homeless in Washington, D.C. were helped by the sock drive. The students were also helped for they were shown that even at 12 years old, they can make a difference in the world and bring about change.

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 information from articles and the United Streaming video clips were used to meet the following indicators from FCPS Curriculum:
  • compare and contrast with prior knowledge as well as each other
  • draw inferences from the information and act upon it
  • explain the usefulness of information
  • write letters (to thank the guest speakers from the Coalition for the Homeless)
  • Language Usage indicators were met in students' letter writing

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

Students reflected through discussion and two class questionnaires presented after each experience. Reflection encouraged students to think about their involvement in this project, its impact, and the way taking part in it would affect them in the future.

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

Students took leadership by finding sponsors for the read-a-thon, managing their time to allow for maximum minutes of reading each night, and by requesting to have a sock drive after hearing the guest speakers from the Coalition for the Homeless discuss the need for warm socks during the winter months.

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

The local food bank and the Coalition for the Homeless were the community partners involved in this project.

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

I planned with 7th grade language arts team members in developing the lessons, as well as with our Reading Specialist. The classes' ideas led me to plan for the sock drive with the help of the students since this portion was student-generated. We had to make copies of the articles and pledge sheets, find the United Streaming video clips, create reflection sheets, contact the guest speakers and arrange for them to present, send out emails to coordinate schedules so that all students could attend, count canned food, deliver it to the food bank, box the socks and mail them to Washington D.C., and mail thank you letters.

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

The students became more aware of the problem of hunger and homelessness in our area, learned to compare and contrast information, make inferences, write better letters, and most importantly, realize that they could make a difference in our world. They learned empathy and compassion and generosity which are as important as any curricular indicator for it helps them become good human beings.