I Made a Difference.

I’m often asked what I love most about teaching Kinder kids. There’s absolutely no way I can answer that question! And, I’m glad that I can’t.

I do love that I get to introduce my kids to service-learning*.

Service-learning isn’t synonymous with community service, as community service can be described as an individual’s or group’s work requirement that benefits a specific group. And, once the goal is reached, the community service is complete.

Service-learning builds upon community service and expands the experience and its impact.

Since I teach younger students, we currently built upon a need that was identified for us – hunger. We participated in our school-wide collection of canned food items and then I expanded it from there to make our move into service-learning.

Once all donations were in, my Kinder kids continued their call to action. They prepared all items, by sorting, counting and bagging them.

The day before we delivered the bags, I talked about a time when I broke my ankle, was on crutches and how I needed help — help I didn’t plan on needing. I told the kids that I was thankful to have family and friends who took action and helped me, and how they inspired me to help others more often.

Going around our circle, the kids shared their experiences of identifying a need and taking action.

A few shares:

  • Taking meals over to a neighbor fighting cancer
  • Pulling weeds out of the garden when Dad was sick
  • Going grocery shopping when Grandpa couldn’t
  • Cooking for Granny when she was sick
  • Helping Dad get around when he pulled a muscle
  • Opening things for Mom when her arm was in a cast
  • Giving Dad hugs and smiles when he cut his foot when we went swimming

The sharing of need identification and action is an important component of service-learning, and it’s called Reflection.

Reflection offers the kids the opportunity to consider how their actions impacted themselves and how their actions impacted those they helped. So, while they were sharing their experiences, they also shared the impacts on self and others. One of my kiddos said it made her want to help more.

Later, we read and discussed Maddi’s Fridge (Lois Brandt/Vin Vogel), a book about an unimaginable issue in the eyes of my five year olds — childhood hunger. I appreciate Ms. Brandt’s approach to childhood hunger for a young audience. Her book includes difficult feelings such as embarrassment, worry, and conflicted emotions concerning promise-making. As we read, I would stop and ask the kids, “What would you do?” about the various situations and characters choices.

As a result of our collection and conversations, my Kinder kids approached the food delivery with more understanding and compassion.

And when we returned, we reflected. It’s amazing what they noticed. One of my kids said it perfectly, “I noticed that we are all just people.”

We also worked on another component of service-learning called Demonstration. The kids demonstrated impact by drawing and writing about their experience. I’ll gather their papers and create a class book. I’ll send it home with each student. I’ll add a comment page to our book so the adults can make provide feedback. The kids love hearing the comments before the book heads to the next kiddo’s family.

*Service-learning, a teaching method that teaches us about ourselves and includes service to others. Or, in the words of one of my five year olds, “It’s when my heart feels bigger and fuzzier.”