Service learning connects community service with academic skills, and for our students, creates a deep connection between helping others and learning. Service Learning also enhances the personal and social skills we are trying to develop in our students: working with and for others, communication in verbal and written forms, problem solving, logical thinking, organizational skills, and forming lifelong habits such as helpfulness, graciousness, and generosity.
At each grade level, St. Patrick’s students participate in a number of ongoing community service projects that are age-appropriate and extend throughout the year.
Our kindergarten students currently have two service projects for the year: maintaining the school’s Lost and Found program and working with the Senior Concerns Center in Thousand Oaks.
The Lost and Found project focuses on our school community while the field trips to Senior Concerns help our students to look beyond into the larger community.
By keeping track of lost items and being responsible for returning them to their rightful owners, kindergarten students develop a way to be helpful to their older friends. This project also ties in with the reading, math, and public speaking skills that they are learning in the classroom.
Being ambassadors of friendship for our senior friends requires kindergarten students to learn social skills like manners, the art of conversation, patience, compassion, and caring for others. This fall the students sang songs for and with the seniors; they recited their favorite poems, and shared the Family Books they each had made. This allowed for a rich conversation with the seniors about how much they truly have in common. As part of their math studies, the kindergarten students also poll the seniors on a variety of topics and then graph the results.
The first graders have an opportunity to enhance their personal, academic, and social skills through their work with the Manna Food Bank of the Conejo Valley. Students learn about those less fortunate, the hungry, and homeless in our neighborhoods and become part of the solution. Students visit the food bank to see how those in need are served. Each week, in verbal and written form, the students make announcements and flyers about the need for and the reasons to donate to the food bank. They collect, sort, count, and classify donations according to food groups. This information is translated into different types of graphs and graphics completed in their computer class. While coming up with clever themes, like the SOUP-ER BOWL donation drive each February or BOO..st our Manna donations for Halloween, the first graders seek donations from their families, their neighbors, and from the other members of the St. Patrick’s community.
The second grade service learning project focuses on animals and pet care. As part of their science curriculum, the students study endangered species, animal behavior and habitats, and human interaction and living with wildlife. As advocates and supporters of the Ojai Humane Society, students enjoy a field trip to the center to understand how animals come to the shelter, to see how they are cared for, and how they are adopted. Students learn about proper pet care, how to safely approach a pet, and to understand the responsibilities of owning a pet. Throughout the year, the second graders host several donation drives to help the Ojai Humane Society with its many needs, and they work on projects that enhance the shelter site and its animal inhabitants. They also communicate this information in oral and written form to the other members of the St. Patrick’s community.
Water Conservation, recycling, and helping the environment are components of the third grade service project. The third graders collect and recycle water bottles to raise money for the non-profit organization, The Water Project. Each year the goal is to raise $500 for the building of a well in Africa. Through their efforts, students develop a global perspective about the issues that third world countries face. They also learn that each individual has the power to make a difference.
This service project is integrated into the curriculum in several ways. Reading books and stories about those without enough water around the world enriches the literature program while in science, students are studying about the water cycle, water conservation, the building of wells, and recycling. In math, students learn about liquid capacity, volume, and measurement.
Helping others is the focus of the fourth grade service projects each year. Each week the students prepare individual brown bag lunches for a weekend homeless feeding program at the St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church. Throughout the year, they create cards, gifts, and holiday items for individuals who are infirmed, lonely, and who need a little cheering up. This most recent Christmas, they donated new socks to one of the local homeless shelters.
Fifth grade participates in two service projects during the year
The Fall service learning project benefits the local organization For The Troops. Students conduct a giving drive, write letters to soldiers, and pack boxes to be shipped out to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each box the student packs contains one of the student’s personal letters. After the first drive, we also have a drive during Halloween known as Treats for Troops. The students collect Halloween candy from the entire school and deliver it to For The Troops. This project culminates by the fifth grade preparing and conducting the Veteran’s Day Assembly in chapel. This community service project aligns with the study of American History, public speaking, and the language arts curriculum.
Our Spring service learning project is with the Heal the Bay Adopt a Beach Program. St. Patrick’s participates in three beach cleanups throughout the year at Westward Beach. Students collect trash and tally the various items they find. The data collected becomes part of the Heal the Bay’s national database, which is used to enact legislation. This activity is connected to a variety of learning activities in writing, graphing, statistics, and science.
The sixth-grade service-learning project involves collecting donations for and working at the Mad Attic Thrift Store located on Skyline Drive in Thousand Oaks. The Mad Attic is a non-profit, volunteer-run, outreach of St. Patrick’s church that serves the community by providing low-cost shopping and by making monetary donations to local charities.
At the start of the school year, students learn about the importance of thrift stores for those who cannot afford regular retail prices. Then students create an advertising plan that includes oral presentations, posters, and even a video recorded commercial to share with the school and church community.
For the remainder of the school year, sixth-grade students host monthly collection drives and then deliver the donations to the Mad Attic. While at the store, students organize, price, and display merchandise. They help clean around the store, and they interact with the staff of volunteers. The experience and connections made often lead to students returning to volunteer at the shop even after graduating St. Patrick’s.
Beyond the practical life experience, the service completed at the Mad Attic lends itself to valuable lessons within the classroom. Throughout the year, students study about volunteerism, interview local volunteers, produce a documentary, and write reflective essays on their work as volunteers. Math lessons on percent, discount, sales tax, and simple business finances are incorporated into the students’ work at the Mad Attic. And most importantly, students learn to be grateful, humble, and giving.