Our year long social studies unit of study has been Families & Homes. As we finish the school year, we have been reflecting on the many things we have learned. Through our Maslow study, our little ones are well aware of how their family structures positively impact them. They have shared that families support you, encourage you, keep you safe, and most importantly love you. We asked our students, “What about the children who don’t have such families? Who keeps them safe? Who takes care of them? Who encourages them to be the best versions of themselves?” They were at a loss because this harsh reality is something they have not experienced.
My lovely K/1 colleague had the brilliant idea of teaming up with the non profit organization, A Sense of Home (ASOH) to provide our little ones with a meaningful service learning project. ASOH gets donated furniture and home supplies, and helps out of age foster youth create their first real home. After many class discussions we posed the questions:
- How can we advocate for those who don’t have a voice?
- How can we improve the belonging system for youth who have aged out of the foster system?
Our little ones made lists of the basic household items they use on a daily basis. Eventually they became two lists: bathroom and kitchen items. Then we decided that the first graders would bring gift baskets with bathroom items and the kinders would bring kitchen items – because as a little one said, “K is for kitchen and for kindergarten!” Students were instructed that their parents were not to pay for these items. They had to earn them by doing various chores at home. Many of them groaned at the thought, but as time went by, their sense of pride and community spirit deepened. To earn money they had lemonade stands, sold their art work and washed windows. My favorite was a little one who held dance performances for their parents after dinner
We also got lots of great feedback from parents:
I took my son to pick out the items for his basket this afternoon. In the back of the car holding his jar of money he said to himself, “This is when it all pays off.” He was so excited. And he feels such ownership of the project. We went over budget vs. what he had in the jar, and he has been working off the balance all afternoon because he wants to “pay for it all”. It’s an awesome project.
It was so lovely for me to witness my daughter really getting into working on assembling this Sense of Home basket for a kid in need. I could see that she truly empathized with these kids and her heart went out to them. In addition to the other things, she was particularly concerned that if the foster kid aging out is female, then she would need sanitary napkins. And she’d need deodorant if she wanted to try to get a job to earn income. And she’d need encouragement and something to brighten her days because she wouldn’t have parents to encourage her. She and her brother made a framed picture and included some silk hydrangeas in a vase for encouragement…
On Friday, our K/1 students brought their baskets and walked them to the bus. They were full of pride as they saw all of the things that they were able to donate as a result of their hard work, compassion and want to support their community. All of the K/1 classes participated in this service learning project. Some classes made candles, others made books and sold them at school to raise funds. With the funds collected they went to IKEA as a class to purchase household items (brave teachers). It was truly inspiring to see our school community collaborate together to support such an amazing organization that empowers our youth to hold tight to their hopes and dreams.
It takes a village to raise a child. – African Proverb
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