Operation Red Carpet
Mechanicsville Elementary School, St. Mary’s County, Barbara Cooksey Abell, Principal, 301-472-4800
In order to increase students’ awareness of others and to develop their leadership skills, a number of service-learning projects were conducted during the 2007-2008 school year. One of these was “Operation Red Carpet,” launched by the Mechanicsville Elementary School (MES) Student Council. The purpose of this project is to recognize and show support for Navy officers and enlisted personnel at Patuxent Naval Air Station who recently returned from overseas duty by holding quarterly welcome home parties. The events are held in the atrium of Pax River’s Naval Air Systems Command headquarters. The students felt this was a worthwhile project through which they could demonstrate an appreciation for the individuals completing overseas assignments that lasted anywhere from six months to a year. Students created posters and patriotic gift bags to present to the returning sailors and attended and cheered at welcome home parties.
Best Practice 1: What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?
As a school community, we’ve become aware of how difficult it is for everyone involved when someone is on a military deployment. Not only is it very difficult for the person deployed, it is also hard on families, friends, and loved ones.
According to the Patuxent River Naval Base Commanding Officer, Captain Glen Ives, the people whose deployments sent them to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba are the No. 1 priority of the Base and always will be. Deployed from this Base alone, there are more than 250 sailors supporting global operations. That makes up almost 10% of the population at Pax River.
It is important to help these sailors, and their families, reconnect and feel supported when the sailors return home. That is the goal of this project. With Lee Greenwood’s song, “God Bless the USA,” playing in the background, the returning sailors and their families pass through a corridor filled with family members, friends, co-workers, and Mechanicsville Elementary School staff and student council members all waving flags, cheering, and applauding.
MES students extended this project, which impacted active military personnel, and created a project to support veterans as well. Students made holiday cards and comfort kits which were delivered to the local Charlotte Hall Veterans’ Home. There are many veterans at the Charlotte Hall Veterans’ Home with no family, so we felt we needed to provide some comfort to them.
Our service-learning projects have helped provide moral support for those who serve, or have served, in harms way. They are men and women who have accepted the requirement of hard work. They have been the epitome of honor, courage, and commitment and for that we are thankful.
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)?
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, 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 monthly meetings to determine the next steps of responsibility and caring services they may want to accomplish. Reflections and discussions centered around what went well, and how improvements should and could be made to the projects.
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, develop 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 Patuxent River Naval Air Station personnel, Red Cross, The Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Parks and Recreation, the Sheriff’s Department, MES faculty and staff, as well as the Parent, Students, and Teachers Organization (PSTO).
Best Practice 6: How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project
Students met with the principal before school started in the fall to learn the qualities of leadership and select projects for the upcoming school year.
Best Practice 7: What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project?
The principal conducted outreach to non-traditional student leaders to recruit them into student council in an attempt to tap into their untapped leadership potential. The principal is most proud of what her 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. She has seen a direct correlation between student council participation and how well students perform academically. Most of her student council members are on the honor roll and the principal feels their involvement in student government helps fuel this success. The principal said, “These children are the leaders of tomorrow and they have had the opportunity to be involved in activities that promote service to the community and encourage civic responsibility. They possess strength of character and the courage to do what is right. The students’ positive attitudes throughout the year have been noted by the entire school community. These young people have played a vital role in fostering school spirit, and the attitudes, skills and knowledge required of good citizens. They have lived up to their mission statement to work to become better people.”