Known as “the MPA Way,” the maxim “Be kind and do your best” has been a way of life in the Lower School for decades.

So many aspects of our curriculum emphasize how each of us is special and can make a positive difference in the world. Lower School teachers try to instill a philanthropic spirit in the Academy’s youngest learners. Students quickly see how easy it is to spread kindness and begin living for others. So much so that service learning becomes service living.

In conjunction with our all-school service day on May 17, teachers from preschool through fifth grade selected developmentally appropriate areas of service for their children. Chosen service learning projects not only have curricular tie-ins, but are also relevant and meaningful to our students. All of our Lower School students gracefully and enthusiastically answered the call to help others and give back to the local and global community.

Our PK3 students brought their lemonade stand to the Middle School Walk-a-thon. They cheered on their fellow students and sold lemonade to the walkers. The money they collected will be donated to Red Nose Day. Red Nose Day is an organization whose mission is to end child poverty by funding programs that keep children safe, healthy, and educated. Money raised through Red Nose Day has positively impacted over 16 million children in America and around the world, and our preschoolers were proud to be a part of their efforts.

Our PK4 students took their “Love Rocks!” project on the road. Throughout the year they have read several books on spreading kindness, such as Have You Filled a Bucket Today, Chester’s Way, Chrysanthemum, and Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. As part of our Fall Service Day, the students painted rocks and wrote inspirational messages on them. The children left the rocks around the MPA campus for anyone who needed a bit of love. This spring, the preschoolers wanted to spread their positive messages to the residents of Smith Village, a nearby retirement community. On Friday, they walked over to the residence and left Love Rocks around the grounds. We know these brightened the day for so many seniors.

Kindergarten students have been learning about community helpers and wanted to say, “Thank you” to a very special group of people, the neighborhood firefighters. In recognition of these important community helpers, the kindergarten students made thank you cards to present to firefighters for their service and commitment to our safety. The students were thrilled to present their cards in person because one of our kindergarten parents arranged for a group of firefighters to visit with their truck.

Students in first and second grades love math and felt like math superheroes during their St. Jude Math-a-thon. The math-a-thon is a fundraiser that improves students’ math skills and teaches the importance of helping others. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is devoted to treating and defeating childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Following a second grade reading unit entitled, Facing Challenges and Change, our second grade students wanted to be change makers, too. They invited their first-grade friends to join in on their efforts. Together they discovered that doing math can help save lives. Students gathered pledges and donations from their families and together they raised over $3,000.

Third grade students also wanted to thank community helpers. They made survival kits for law enforcement officers. Students assembled the bags and filled them with treats and notes. They wanted police officers to know they cared, and to thank them for caring and keeping us safe. The survival kits were distributed to local police stations.

Our fourth grade students are full of heart and soul. They opted to host a shoe drive for their service project. Students collected gently worn shoes and donated them to Share Your Soles, an organization that provides the necessary support to putting shoes on the soles of children and adults in some of the most impoverished areas of the world. Students donated over 100 pairs of shoes. On service day, students also baked cookies, bagged them, and wrote inspirational notes on each. They held a bake sale during lunch. Proceeds of $110 were also donated to Share Your Souls.

Rain did not dampen our fifth grade efforts; the weather just postponed their clean-up day at Calumet Beach. Students will be picking up litter and cleaning up Calumet Beach through Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program. The Alliance for the Great Lakes is an organization that works to protect the Great Lakes. With a focus on making sure the Great Lakes are healthy and safe for all, they involve tens of thousands of people each year in advocacy, volunteering, education, and research. As part of their partnership on this day, students will be responsible for collecting data about the amount and type of trash collected. This data will be submitted into their database after our experience. In fifth grade, a world geography emphasis in social studies and reading has helped shape the students into becoming advocates for a greater good, hoping to help provide basics such as water, food, and education for all.

It is heartwarming to witness our young students discover that they really can make a difference in the lives of so many others. The Lower School students realized how small acts of kindness can have a huge impact. We are fortunate to be a part of a wonderful MPA community and cherish opportunities to give back to others in need. Thank you to all our families, teachers, and students for helping us realize the value and importance of service living.

By Liz Raser

Mrs. Raser teaches second grade and is the Lower School’s assistant principal.