In Massachusetts, students in North Adams, as shown in the video above, created art work, collected toys and wrote a what-to-expect book for the emergency room of a local hospital. Students in Lunenburg and Hudson collected food for a local food pantry. In Medway, students grew crops from seedlings and created compost for a local community farm. Students in Leominster created a book about playground safety and shared it with other classrooms. Students in Dudley-Charlton built planter boxes for outdoor space near a science area.
What these projects have in common is that in each case the students were in kindergarten or pre-kindergarten. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) highlighted them at a recent full-day kindergarten networking conference. They are all examples of service learning, which ESE defines as a “method of teaching and learning that challenges students to identify, research, propose and implement solutions to real needs in their school or community as part of the curriculum.”
The activities, an ESE overview notes, are aligned with the state’s curriculum frameworks in English, math, science and health. The Medway kindergartners, for instance, not only learned about the science of composting, but they practiced the math skills of sorting and classifying and also kept a journal. Likewise, the pre-kindergarten students in Leominster learned about health when the school nurse came to talk to them about playground safety. They also paired written safety rules and signs with appropriate visuals and communicated the rules with other students. (Click here for more information on service learning from ESE.)
“At an early age these young people are practicing responsible citizenship, working in teams and solving problems,” the overview states. “Students are discussing and answering essential questions about helping others, caring and sharing.”