We believe at PS 29 that service learning has tremendous value in teaching our students that the world is bigger than themselves and their immediate community. As you know, we began the school year with a review of our “PS 29 Code for Living,” our school’s core values - integrity, responsibility, respect, and empathy - that we reference throughout the school day and year through our daily interactions, the books we read, our discussions in the classroom and beyond.
Our commitment to service learning is aligned with our core values. It is our hope to guide students through a process of acknowledging that there are many forms of inequity in the world and inspire them to feel that they have the power to combat these inequities with knowledge and action.
Our goal at PS 29 is for our students’ service learning process to be hands-on and as close to the heart of the issues as possible in order to understand the perspectives of others and deepen their experience with empathy.
As such, we have developed a goal for each grade to engage in service projects that may connect to our curriculum or content and/or partner with outside organizations to effect change. As young as kindergarten, our students have begun to collect books for Project Cicero to support other school and community libraries across our city (please listen to video below). We began these collections last over the past couple of weeks. Please continue to bring your book donations to the front lobby.
Our kindergarteners will help to collect, sort, categorize, and pack these books that will be delivered to communities in need. This initiative also connects our kindergarteners’ school study in social studies in which they’re currently learning about members of a school and their roles within the community (through touring our own building and interviewing individuals such as our safety agent, custodial staff, principal, secretaries, etc.), as well as how schools can support other school communities outside their own.
In 1st grade, you might recall that our students were collecting canned food in conjunction with City Harvest as well as supporting our school wide coat drive during the December holidays. In addition, our 1st graders collaborated with Conover House in Red Hook to organize a toy drive for children affected by HIV and AIDS. This work connects with their social studies curriculum around the study of family. At this time, our students were also learning about different families’ needs versus wants, which went hand in hand with the service learning process.
In 2nd grade, we collaborated with an organization called Heights & Hills that trained our students in the types of skills needed to work with and support the elderly. They learned about the aging process and how compassion and patience are integral to service work with the aging community. Our 2nd graders have been following up by visiting the Cobble Hill Health Center, a nursing home down the street, where they have been presenting original artwork and stories, singing songs, and reading books with the residents.
In 3rd grade, tied in with the study of Africa, South America and China in social studies & upcoming collaboration with Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) around African dance and drumming, each classroom has “adopted” an endangered animal from these regions and have been working with various outside organizations such as World Wildlife Fund to support this work. Through research and presentation, some of our students will be sharing their knowledge and potential action items with our school community at upcoming events including our “Day of Service” in the garden on Sunday, April 26th as well as our Block Party in June.
In 4th grade, for a third year in a row we are working closely with a cohort of 40 schools across the city in a program called STAR (Students Taking Action for Relief). Last year, you might remember, we collected over 40 boxes to be added to shipping containers that were sent to refugee camps in Yemen. The year before last we sent collections to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. For more information, watch this video.
This year’s 4th graders will be collecting items for communities in Jordan, Bangladesh, Yemen (and possibly Lebanon and Somalia). As we did last school year, we will be working in conjunction with our Rummage Sale, another service initiative with a set of sustainability goals (i.e., reused clothing and recycling electronics). At this event, we will set aside clothes specifically in support of the STAR collections for the aforementioned countries. Our 4th graders will manage the collections process and also share their knowledge about these countries and provide historical and political context to students of other grades. Some 4th grade students and families will also help with transporting the collections to the shipping site.
In 5th grade, we will continue their work with supporting communities across the globe. We launched a partnership with a school named Emhlangeni Primary School located in Zimbabwe. We are about to engage in a cultural exchange program in which our students will learn about the students in Zimbabwe by sharing stories, traditions, and insight into one another’s daily lives, interests, hopes and fears. In addition, we will be sponsoring a “learning center” at this school by utilizing the learning platform, Bridge Pi. This video about the Loziba Primary Bridge Project provides more information about this project. Please note that 5th graders will be selling student-designed Kandinsky magnets during Super Science Saturday connecting these concentric circles with 3.14, which happens to be the date, 3/14, of the event.
School-wide, we have a host of service efforts throughout the year. Our Peer Mediators and Lunch Helpers support our students with conflict resolution every day. Here, we have incorporated our emphasis on social emotional learning. We also have service embedded in our student Green Team that just visited Sims Municipal Recycling Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn a few days ago on 2/25 to learn more about how recycling happens. Stay tuned for a letter from our Green Team Leaders about this experience as well as some school-wide goals around sustainability that we look forward to sharing with our larger community as we learn more about how our school can help with climate change. This Green Team among our gardening families within our wellness committee and our service committee will be hosting our upcoming “Earth Day Work Day in the P.S. 29 Garden” on Saturday, April 25th. Please note that as a nod to the March 1st state ban on single use plastic bags, our service committee will support our Green Team Leaders with running a station on reusing old T-shirts by creatively turning them into hand bags. We hope that many families will join us in the garden.
We have thoughtfully developed our grade-specific projects with the idea in mind that service learning experiences illustrate the value for our students of thinking beyond themselves. We feel that our school has a responsibility to respond to disasters and tragedies within and outside of our own community. As such, we will continue to communicate to families about organizations that are operating within our neighborhood, city and beyond with which, in the spirit of service, we encourage connection and engagement.
Thank you for your partnership, and we look forward to working together to serve our community and beyond.
Rebecca & Community Service Committee