A common thread throughout our Lower School teaching is that students learn by doing. That underlying principle is woven into service-learning, too.

lizAccording to the National Youth Leadership Council, KIDS Consortium, service-learning projects work best when they fit the ages and developmental abilities of the participants, include interesting and engaging service-related activities, explore the context of the underlying societal issues the service addresses, and address needs that are important to the community being served. While these goals may sound lofty for our youngest students, our Lower School teachers prepared meaningful and personally relevant service activities for their children that encompassed all of the above.

The Upper School Service Council selected Conservation as a theme for the October All-School Service Day. Over the course of a couple of weeks, Lower School students investigated and addressed real-world issues using 21st century skills of collaboration, open-ended inquiry, and problem-solving. Meaningful learning was a result of an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to teaching. Below are highlights of grade-level activities.

After reading The Earth Book by Todd Parr, students in PK3 talked about keeping the Earth clean and what the recycling symbol means. They became recycle detectives and hunted for the symbol around campus. Sorting games provided practice for separating garbage into appropriate cans and then students created large recycle bins. The preschoolers also set conservation goals including: using only one paper towel to dry off their hands after they wash them; remembering to turn off the water after they wash their hands; and, eliminating paper cups at snack time, using instead the reusable cups they made.

Although rain prohibited the students in PK4 from beginning their preschool garden, their conservation efforts were not dampened. Using puffy paints, students made Earth pictures and discussed ways conservation and recycling can protect the Earth. They decorated water bottles that will stay at school and be used in lieu of paper cups. A recycle versus garbage sorting activity helped students see how much trash they can actually reuse.

Students in kindergarten focused on recycling and discussed big ways their small hands can take care of the Earth and nature. After reading stories about helping the Earth and watching a video about what happens at a recycling plant, students wrote in their journals and created a Recycled Robot out of recycled boxes and papers. After examining their lunches, students found ways they could reduce their garbage, such as using reusable or recyclable containers and cloth napkins.

First graders learned about filtered water, which is an important part of everyday life. Humans need to drink water to survive, and clean water allows them to drink healthy water that promotes well-being. Students discovered filtering this water takes work! A hands-on science activity showed students how water filters remove sediment and other substances from drinking water.

Second graders  studied different energy sources and realized that some are renewable and others are non-renewable. They found examples of various energy sources in their lives. The children sang about several types of energy. In a “Today Show, Friday Summer Concert”-fashion, students presented their findings in several songs and interviews, using resources from the National Energy Education Development Project. Their Energy Rocks! series included student groups such as Bruce “Hot” Spring Steam and the Geysers singing about geothermal energy. Bernie and the Biomasters sang about waste heat. Madam and the Spillways harmonized about hydro-power. 10,000 Methanics, performed their hit single “Home on My Range” and taught listeners about natural gas. Unveiling their hit song “Solar Collection,” the band Fusion shared with listeners the power of solar energy. Darrieus and the Wind Spinners debuted “Watts on the Wind” and gave listeners a glimpse of blade power in wind energy.

Third graders drew inspiration form their summer read. In the novel, Marty McGuire Digs Worms, students were challenged to make something that is good or helpful to the environment. Our MPA students began working on an up-cycle project and created designs from recycled materials. Students presented their creations to their third grade peers.

In fourth grade, Middle School students visited and helped up-cycle cereal boxes and Lysol containers to make them more beautiful and useful for storage. The sixth grade class also shared books on conservation. We ended our service day with whole class and small group discussions on ways they could conserve in our community.

Fifth graders discussed conserving resources in school and at home. They focused specifically on recycling their garbage and conserving electricity. Students created signs for recycling bins to help them know what should go in recycling at home. They also designed covers for their light switches to help family members remember to turn off the lights when they leave the room.

Teachers set their students off on a path of guided-discovery and as a result, the students’ notions of conservation are both internal and personal. Because their learning was meaningful and developmentally appropriate, Lower School students’ understanding of conservation will last well beyond Service Day.

By Liz Raser

Mrs. Raser teaches second grade, is our Assistant Lower School Principal, and is the Curriculum Leader for the Elementary Team.