When a service project comes full circle

After a successful division-wide new sock drive in October (462 pairs of socks collected), a mega food drive where over 3000 food items were collected for a local food pantry in November, and a touching adopt-a-family initiative that supported families in crisis in December, we decided that January’s Lower School community service project should not involve a “drive” of sorts but instead something that Lower School children themselves could do without parent help or monetary support.

After searching for such a project, I stumbled upon “Hugs for Soldiers,” a program “dedicated to offering comforts from home and brightening a Soldier’s day with a care package, card or letter of encouragement.”

Here is an excerpt from a story written about this project:

A January community service project hatched in the Lower School has transformed into a school-wide initiative as students of all ages are beginning to craft and create valentine cards and messages for troops overseas.

From there it took on a life of its own – including the decision to earmark Hamden Hall’s cards and letters to Hamden Hall alumnus Matthew Peterson, who graduated in 2003 and is currently a captain in the U.S. Army. Matthew was deployed in early January to Afghanistan for eight months – his second tour in that country. He was also deployed to Iraq for one year. His mom, Cookie Peterson, is a former second-grade teacher at Hamden Hall who retired in June 2010 after 17 years. Many Hamden Hall faculty continue to keep in touch with Cookie, including Sue Bennett and Sandi Cunningham (with whom Cookie taught second grade for 11 years), who are helping coordinate the Hugs for Soldiers initiative.

So, after Sue Bennett, our Lower School art teacher explained the project to our students as assembly, students began creating the most beautiful and heartfelt cards and notes to be sent to Matt and his unit.  At the end of January, we accumulated over 150 cards and they were sent on their way through the Hugs for Soldiers organization.

In early March, we received this beautiful note along with pictures from Matt and his unit. We shared these at assembly with our students. It was an emotional experience for everyone in attendance and our students sat with wide-eyes as they saw their valentines in the hands of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. And it was so powerful to have a service project come full circle.

Pretty amazing!


Read more:

Warm Socks and Busloads of Food Foster Goodwill for Donors and Receivers

Valentine “Hugs” Project Send Message to Troops

April Community Service: Take care of our earth!

"Creative Commons Earth Day Poster" by Spacedust is licensed under CC

“Creative Commons Earth Day Poster” by Spacedust is licensed under CC

Part of Hamden Hall’s mission is to instill a sense of social responsibility. It is with this in mind that, since October, the Lower School has participated in a community service/ service learning project each month. The project, its goals, and follow-up information is shared with students at during our weekly assembly. These projects have ranged from school-wide food drives to grade level project such as this one. Our 6th graders have been true leaders throughout the year and have helped to promote and support  these initiatives. What amazing role models for our younger students!

Here are some ideas that I shared with Lower School teachers for April’s  Community Service, which focuses on taking care of the earth! Teachers can choose one of these or come up with their own project. They are encouraged to work with other grade levels and have students involved in the decision-making process. I thought others might find this information useful.

Used Book Collection
Run a gently used kid’s book drive to keep books out of the waste stream. Read to Grow!

Ronald McDonald House Pop Tabs Collection
“Collecting pop tabs is a great way to teach kids about philanthropy and the importance of recycling, and raise funds to help children and their families at the same time. Some of our Chapters raise thousands of dollars with their pop tab collections.”

Nike Reuse a Shoe Program
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe takes worn out athletic shoes and grinds them down to create a new material called Nike Grind, which is used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.

Nature Walk/ Clean up!
Walk to a local park and help clean up/ recycle any trash found along the way.

Make Homemade Bird Feeders
10 Bird Feeders Kids love to make
Remember: no peanut butter (Crisco is a substitute). Be mindful of seed allergies.

Plan a Lesson/ Activity for a younger grade about Earth Day
Teach others about taking care of Mother Earth! Create a lesson/ read a story/ do a craft from recycled materials.

Educate our Community!
Make flyers to hang around campus to educate others on how to take better care of the earth! Check out these tips from Time for Kids.

Letter Writing
In celebration of Earth Day, have your students research some environmentalists who have made major contributions to our planet. A good starting point would be to view the people listed on the Ecology Hall of Fame. Have each student choose one person. After researching the person’s achievements, students can then write letters to the environmentalists asking for their opinions on a current environmental issue or to share ideas on how to protect the earth. Students can write a friendly or business letter using the Letter Generator. After printing the letters, have students turn their letters into letter poems using the Letter Poem Creator, which will help them change their letters into poetic form. Once the poems are finished, host an Earth Day poetry reading-outdoors if possible. (from Read Write Think)

Early Childhood Service Learning Curriculum for the Environment and Earth Day
There’s some ideas here for some of the younger grades including:

  • Turning Trash into Treasures

  • Creating Recycling Bins

  • Recycling Superheroes

  • Recycled Bird Houses

  • Transportation & Pollution

  • Musical Instruments

  • Cut the Pollution Card

  • Green 100 Lesson & Project Ideas

Encourage children to write and perform an original skit about caring for the Earth. Let each child or group choose their own topic which can range from not littering to preservation issues. Video the performances and let the children watch their own skits to reinforce the ideas they shared. Students can even perform it at assembly!

Also, here’s a link to Earth Day Books for Kids.


If you have any additional ideas, please share them!