In The Harley School’s Mission, we state:
We show how to care for the world and other people.
This very important charge impacts our entire school community as our students, at every age, become engaged in making the world around us a better, brighter place. In this post, we’ll take a look at three different approaches, one from each division.
Lower School: Valentine Cards for UR Medicine-Home Care “Meals on Wheels” Program
For over a decade our Primary classrooms have been sending Valentine’s love to residents of Monroe County. All of the children in K and Grade 1 put their creativity to good use as they make cards, napkin ring holders, “boingy” heart Valentines, and bookmarks for delivery to recipients of Meals on Wheels hot meals.
“The students don’t sign their names, instead they concentrate on giving a symbol of kindness and love to cheer up the recipients,” reports Primary teacher Laura Joslyn, the originator of the project. “The kids really connect with this because it is hands-on and they love using the different materials to let their artistic side out.”
Every year the goal is to produce 600 cards, but this is often far surpassed—over 1,000 were created one year!
The themes of friendship and kindness (part of our responsive classroom curriculum in Lower School) help to extend our students’ understanding of the greater community. “At these ages, so much of their world is themselves, their families, and their classroom community. This is one of the first projects for people we don’t know,” said Joslyn.
By learning who they can help and what a difference they can make, the seeds are planted for larger community awareness.
Middle School: Brightening Birthdays with Volunteers of America
Eileen Ferrari was seeking a civic engagement project for our Grade 8 students that would channel their natural enthusiasm while helping them work on their teamwork skills…and what better way to do so than by planning a good party?
She discovered a program through Volunteers of America where a birthday party is held every month for families using a homeless shelter. Different companies, churches and other schools take turns and now our Middle School students do too!
The shelter provides the presents but everything else is supplied by us, including: goody bags, cake, music, crafts, games, and running the party.
Our entire Grade 8 is involved in planning and fundraising (including an awesome bake sale!). Different students are involved in differing parts of the process but every Grade 8 student participates. The kids come together to brainstorming themes, talk about what should go in the goody bags, and which are the best games, activities, and crafts to bring along. They also collect socks and books for people at the shelter to choose from. There is a lottery to determine which 10-12 students will go onsite for the actual party.
Rebecca Tracey, one of our Grade 8 faculty team members, shares, “This is a great way for our school to have a continuing, ongoing volunteer program. Many places are looking for ‘one and done’ help but we wanted something more. This provides the students a way to identify it as their own Grade 8 project.”
“The students are empowered by their work. They love to plan the experience for these other children. Part of the process includes preparing a budget to provide a fundraising goal. Followed by determining the best way to obtain funds and donations. And, for those who are able to be onsite, seeing firsthand the difference they are making. Middle School students certainly remember their own favorite parties!” said Tracey.
This year’s theme was ‘Winter Wonderland’ and the students made paper snowflakes and chains, as well as games including an inspired version of ‘Pin the Carrot on Olaf’.
“A project like this is a good fit for Grade 8 because their curriculum includes attention to social interactions—and their interests are social. The brainstorming, small group work, teamwork, and figuring out the needs of the larger group all helps with skills these students are developing,” adds Tracey.
Celebrating a Happy Birthday takes on a whole new level of meaning!
Upper School: Rochester Refugees: Two Students Work from the Heart
One of the most flexible ways to pursue a subject in-depth in our Upper School is to engage in an Independent Study. Students are able to “go deep” into a topic or develop an understanding of a subject not offered in the present curriculum.
Currently two of our Upper School students, Maddy Foster and Charlotte O’Connor, along with their faculty advisor, Jocie Kopfman, are focusing on helping refugees who are located—or are in the process of resettling in—the Greater Rochester area. They have designed the curriculum themselves after being inspired by Dr. Kristin Sheradin’s “Human Rights” class. This is where they first became aware of the large refugee population here and it sparked their desire to become involved in a meaningful, long-lasting way with organizations that help them.
By looking into doing an independent study, the students were able to design their own curriculum with the help of their advisor.
The overarching goal of their work is to educate themselves and others about refugees in Rochester and to collaborate in partnership with one or more groups that support refugees for the next year and a half. (Evolving their Independent Study class into their senior-year Capstone Project.)
They began with a deep-dive into the topic to gain a better understanding, this included absorbing news, podcasts, documentary film, and reading. One book they found informative on the topic is “REFUGE: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World” by Paul Collier & x
Currently, the pair are reaching out to organizations focusing on helping refugees in Rochester. They met this past week with Emma Dempster-Greenbaum ’11 at Mary’s Place; a non-profit refugee outreach center in Northwest Rochester that works with refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan.
This has inspired these classmates to create linkages such as bringing in speakers to the Upper School assembly, ways to volunteer year-round, and potential fundraiser ideas.
Stay tuned to discover where their independent study takes them next in a future post!
Keeping connected to the community around us is an important “charge” for all Harley students. Civic engagement bolsters empathy, self-discovery, and fosters important dialog and learning at every age.