This fall I had a contract at KVR Middle School teaching grade 6, 7 and 8. I have a passion for service learning,
community based learning, and letting students experience learning beyond the
four walls of the classroom. So during my time at KVR I focused on
building empathy through having my students make connections to their school
and greater community.
I started by having the students brainstorm problems
within their school, city, and global communities, which they felt passionate
about. The class narrowed down their ideas and came up with three ways
to help their communities: garbage pickup around the school, collecting new and
gently used warm clothing and toys, and going to a senior centre to keep them
The grade 7 class organized themselves, went outside and picked up all of the garbage on the school
grounds. The students had a blast and in just under an hour they collected 12 full
bags of garbage. This might have seemed like a one time thing, separate from
their day-to-day lives to the students, but it did make a lasting impact on
some of the students. Some were clearly more aware of the garbage that
surrounded them, upset at how quickly the grounds were once again covered in
garbage. This helped them take ownership of their school grounds, and feel
their connection the space that they spend so much of their time in.
Collecting new and gently used clothing and toys:
In December, the class organized a clothing and toy drive. Students
throughout the school brought in new and gently used toys and warm clothing for
all ages. In just over two weeks we collected 717 items, with our class
bringing in over 1/3 of the total items.
Many of my students stayed in at lunches to help sort all the clothing
I knew the students had started to feel
empathy for each other when they were walking to a local elementary school to deliver the clothing and toys and one of the boxes’ bottom broke. Scarfs, mittens and tuques flew
everywhere. Almost everyone in the class stopped to
help them pick up the articles and carry them the rest of the way. The students
were so proud as they recognized how they could directly effect lives around them in a positive
The grade 7 class chose to go to Haven Hill
and bring holiday cheer and baked goods to the residents. The students shared the goodies and helped the seniors make Christmas cards for their families. One student played the violin and a few others took turns on the piano, playing
Christmas carols while the rest of the group sang along. Talking
with the residents was eye opening for many of the students; they enjoyed learning from them and hearing some old stories.
These actions were powerful for the
students because they choose and organized them. The students found things they wanted to do to positively impact the
communities around them. It helped them see how much they can achieve on their own and the power they have to make change in the world around them.
Submitted by Alannah Stewart, a recent graduate from UBCO and first year teacher in SD67