The school wide theme of poverty was selected for the 2015-2016 school year. At the beginning of the school year, students and teachers discussed and reflected on the theme of poverty which not only lack of food but also lack of clothing, shelter, medical care, education, etc. The students in each classroom then collaborated and created a Classroom Creed on Poverty.
Through the monthly Virtue, Action, and Saint program students had monthly hands-on activities and time for reflection to see how they could affect change in the classroom, change in the school, change in the local community, and change in the world. . Lack of medical services is a form of poverty. Students drew and cut out material dolls for Operation Smile. Volunteers sewed the dolls and members of the Community of Caring Club at school stuffed each of the dolls. These were sent to Operation Smile headquarters for use in Eastern Europe, South American, and Asia . Malaria and lack of clean water is another form of poverty. During Math & Science Night, students had the opportunity of making a Life Straw to see how it can filter out 99.9% of the unclean water. Donations were also collected to purchase Life Straws for Africa . Canned food goods, clothing, and toys were collected during November & December for the family homeless shelter. Lack of clothing in Africa was also reflected upon. Students collected new and gently used pillow cases to make little African dresses to send to Africa . Each month a different area of poverty has been touched upon. Students have had hands-on activities and time for reflection to see how they can affect change in the world.
At the end of the year, teachers read the original class creed to their students. Time was spent in reflection and discussion and the class creeds were revised. How did their outlook and idea of poverty change over the course of the year? Did they see how a simple action could cause a ripple effect of change across the globe? Students had a different outlook on their definition of poverty and the role they could play to affect change.
This project is a ‘thinking, feeling, and doing’ project. Students will retain the information they hear better if they are asked to DO something with the information. Character development does not happen over night. The character education initiative at our school is an on-going initiative that begins with the first day of school. The five core values are prominently displayed throughout the school. By creating the class creeds, the core values are reinforced. Students must think about what the values mean to them and how they can create change through their actions. Thinking about what the core values mean to them makes the students aware of their feelings and how they would like to be treated. This project encompassed our school wide social justice theme for the year and made it come to life with many hands-on experiences. We involved students, teachers and staff, family and friends, and outside community members. Assessment on this project included an assessment not only of basic knowledge of the five core values but also how the knowledge of the five core values was applied by the student as a life long learner, how the core values were integrated into social skills, and how the piece demonstrated their responsibility in being a positive global citizen.
Students are actively involved in the ‘doing’ portion of character education. This just isn’t another service project or talking about the theme of poverty. This was a hands-on, year long learning experience for all of our students. Getting to know that poverty is more than just lack of food and that even as a 4 year old Pre-Kindergarten student they can affect change in the world. This is getting in touch with how they feel about the five core values and how they can instill and promote those core values in their own lives. Students get excited to see their service actions affecting change across the globe.
The class creeds were then illustrated by the students in the after school art club program under the direction of Mrs. Marcy Mullholand. The class creeds are on permanent display in the school’s Media Center .