‘Tis the Season for Service Learning at the Junior School


Student leaders at our Junior School are busy like elves, collecting money and items as part of a variety of fundraising drives to make the holiday season brighter for children and adults, both locally and internationally.

Last week, the SMUS Review told you about a gingerbread fundraiser (tied in with math lessons) led by the Grade 2 students as a way to raise money for local women who use the services of Sandy Merriman House. But students all around the school have taken it upon themselves to lead the charge on a number of other service initiatives at this time of year.

Earlier this week, after students led a Coats for Kids clothing drive, a literal car-full of clothes was collected to be given to children in need of warm clothes this winter.

“Lots of people had a coat or hat or socks that they wanted to donate. We had a huge bin that we filled and will give to kids and adults this winter season so they don’t need to be cold,” said Grade 5 student Lauren.

She, alongside fellow Grade 5 students Ava, Josie, Talia and Ty, are some of the members who sit on the Junior School Service Committee, which is helping spearhead and lead some of the service campaigns.

The two Grade 5 classes are also leading a stocking stuffer initiative.

“We’re all bringing stuff in, toys and toiletries mostly, and we’re going to fill stockings for people who don’t have a lot of stuff,” says Josie. “It’s a good way to make someone else feel special, so kids can have a nicer Christmas.” SMUS has partnered with other schools in Greater Victoria to identify where the needs are, and the stockings will be donated to local families.

But it’s not just the Grade 5 students who are student leaders. We believe that students of any age can make a difference in the world, and that rings true for even our youngest of kids. Kindergarten student Tate has been making headlines recently because of his kind heart. The five-year-old says he saw a group of homeless people camping in downtown Victoria, and wanted to make a difference. He’s now aiming to collect 51 sleeping bags to hand out to homeless people on Christmas Eve. (He chose the number 51, because he had $51 in his piggy bank when he started this initiative, and he says he will buy your unwanted sleeping bag for $1.)

“I felt sad for the people that don’t have any homes. I want to get sleeping bags for them, and you can just donate them to me,” Tate said. “I want to make them happy.”

Across the entire Junior School, students are actively participating in the annual World Vision fundraiser, with an eye on making a difference outside of our community. With parent support, students are raising money by doing extra chores at home. The money is counted and collected at school every day, and the Service Committee members rifle through a World Vision catalogue to choose livestock and equipment (such as wells, tools and school supplies) to purchase for families struggling in impoverished countries around the world. The items in the World Vision Gift Catalogue bring help and hope to a child, family or community in need.

“We’re lucky to live in Canada and can afford to go to school and have food to eat, but not everyone has that,” Talia says. “We turn on a tap and there’s water; some people in Africa have to walk for hours to get water and it’s not even clean.”

So why do this? “Because it’s a time of year when people talk about giving and being with family,” says Ava. “It’s all about helping people around the world and in our community, and hopefully putting a smile on their face or making their day better.”

Ms. Kathleen Cook says service learning at the Junior School runs even deeper than that. It’s all about teaching empathy at an early age, she says.

“We really do focus on service learning all year, but right now is really a great opportunity for kids to look at giving back. It’s a powerful time and there are lots of opportunities for kids to make a difference,” she says. “We instill in our students an understanding of the value of helping others, and we do that by making meaningful connections. We tell them stories, we have conversations, we want them to connect and be engaged; otherwise it’s not meaningful.”

Also of great importance is that students understand that there are people living in their community who are in need, which is why she’s so proud of the coat, stocking and sleeping bags initiatives.

“We talk about the virtues project at the Junior School, and this is the virtues in action. They’re really putting themselves in other kids’ shoes when they do these kinds of service projects,” Kathleen says. “Connecting service to learning – through literature and personal stories – helps them realize that what they’re doing matters.”

That sense of empathy certainly isn’t lost on the Grade 5 students.

“It feels good knowing you made a person happier because you donated something,” Ty says. “I think it’s up to the students to be good leaders in the school because it shows we can make a difference.”

(photo by Gordon Chan)



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