A Sense of Home: A community based solution to empower youths who have aged out of the foster system.

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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:

  1. How can we advocate for those who don’t have a voice? 
  2. 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…

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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

 

If you would like to donate and support A Sense of Home, please visit:

http://asenseofhome.org/donate/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ASenseofHomeMovement/

 

Wrapping Up Maslow Study in our K/1 Class

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Over a month ago, I wrote that our K/1 students were beginning to learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how this relates to our year long unit of study, Families & Homes. After much delving, sharing, drawing, reading and writing, our littles ones have an impressive understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. While I wish you could spend an afternoon with my class, discussing their learnings, I’m hoping you see via some of their documentation, how their appreciation for their families has deepened.

Basic Needs (food, water, air)

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My mom always gives me healthy foods.

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I go outside and get air.

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My dad packs my lunch.

Safety Needs (shelter, job)

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I have a safe home.

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If people don’t have a job, then you can’t have money, and you can’t pay for insurance to be healthy.

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Health insurance lets you go to the eye doctor, so you can see and you can learn.

Love & Belonging Needs (family, friendships)

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Me and my mom snuggling.

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I belong to my family and my soccer team.

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I belong in my school.

Self Esteem Needs (confidence, encouragement)

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      I am great at handstands.

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Self Actualization – Doing what you love!

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I learned to count.

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I learned to play basketball.

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I learned how to read music.

 

Many of the kids had huge realizations that many, if not most of the things they had already accomplished were a direct result of their supportive families and community.

 

One of the goals of education should be to teach that life is precious.

— Abraham Maslow

 

K/1 Students Learn About Maslow to Better Understand Systems in Their Homes

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In our K/1 class, we are introducing a basic understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to expand our Social Studies unit of study, Families & Homes. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist (1908-1970) who believed that in order for a person to be self actualized, or reach one’s full potential, certain physiological and emotional needs have to be in place. Maslow identified these needs as:

  1. Basic Needs: food, air, water, sleep
  2. Safety Needs: shelter, safety, stability
  3. Love & Belonging Needs: family, friendship, acceptance, community
  4. Esteem Needs: feeling respected, capable, worthy,
  5. Self-Actualization: harmony, set goals, successful, achieving full potential

 

While we have just begun our conversations, our little ones are already thinking hard and sharing their wonderings.When asked, “Imagine not knowing where you are going to sleep tonight, what you are going to eat for dinner, or who will keep you safe?”  

Our K/1 students were quiet as they contemplated these scenarios. Some asked, “But what about their parents? Where are they?

I replied, “Maybe they are working three jobs to make ends meet. Therefore, they can’t be home to tuck you in bed or read you a story. Some families struggle every day to get their basic needs met. How would you view the world if this was your experience every day. Would you think the world was a fun place full of adventures or do you think you would be scared and unsure?”

They quickly said they would be scared if their mommy’s and daddy’s weren’t home to take care of them. Others said, “I didn’t know some kids have it so hard. I guess we’re lucky to be in our homes, really lucky.” A little girl thoughtfully said, “I know I am because my family gives me encouragement, especially at school because sometimes learning is hard for me.” 

We have written a class big book to help begin our learning on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In the next coming weeks our K/1 students will fill our class hierarchy of needs with writings, drawings, and personal examples as to how their families support their needs both at home and school.

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We will delve into each need and how our families and homes provide us tools to support our physical and emotional development to become the best versions of ourselves.  I’m also curious to see if they will offer solutions to advocate and support kids who need more support in their homes.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. – Abraham Maslow