Here, our 3rd/4th grade teacher Sonali Gupta explains her class’ experience this year with service learning, both at Laurelwood and in the community.
While we’re at Laurelwood, we do the service learning for a very short period of time, to balance out some free/play time for them. So far this spring, we’ve planted beneficial plants in the orchard, assembled a hugelkultur bed, and cleared branches that had fallen in the orchard so that mowing would be easier.
Part of the goal for these projects is that I want them to feel that they are part of this big community by not just enjoying or playing outdoors, but creating something there. We plan to serve & give our time & energy in something that can be helpful for the Laurelwood community and to get a feeling that we have given our energy in exchange for the energy the community has offered us on our visits. The Bhagavad Gita says that each of your actions will earn fruits. I interpret that as – Do not take fruits unless you have earned those. Do not take things for free.
I have observed many benefits from these projects this year:
- It channels children’s physical strengths.
- It gives them tremendous satisfaction to see the fruits of their labors.
- It gives them a sense of greater connection with the community.
- They start to feel responsible for something positive that is more concrete and practical.
- It offers them an opportunity for them to care for others, and give something to others.
- Each time we work there it gives us an opportunity to learn something new, and to work with different people.
As for other service projects outside Laurelwood, it has given them a chance to know the reality of others. One recent project was sorting food for the Food bank. Another was a book drive, collecting used books from our school community to donate to the Children’s Book Bank in Portland. With food and books being so close to their everyday life, it was very concrete for them and easy to understand and relate. They were able to understand fully how they should not just be thankful that they have enough but also to be mindful of other people’s realities around food and books.