Last Friday, the entire Middle School spent the day out of the classroom and lent a helping hand in the community. Community Service Day at the Middle School is a wonderful tradition, where students go to retirement homes and schools, parks and greenspaces to give back in any way they can.
“We’ve done this Community Service Day now for several years now, and it’s our way of connecting students to the larger community and to help them understand the needs that exist outside their world,” says Mr. Xavier Abrioux, Director of the Middle School. “I think at this age, particularly, a day like this is a great example of how they can experience what it’s really like to make a contribution and to understand different perspectives that help give them a greater sense of the community that they live in.”
This year, nearly 200 Grade 6-8 students and teachers headed out to remove invasive species in parks, pick up trash along the Galloping Goose trail, run games and activities at local schools, make and serve food to homeless youth and adults, lend a hand at the local food bank, spend time with the residents at retirement homes, and much more.
There is a conscious effort at the Middle School to provide meaningful service – that involves more than just showing up and lending a hand. Students are involved in Planning, Action, Reflection, Evaluation and Celebration, as it relates to Community Service Day, to help build a true sense of ownership of their community contributions.
“You try to help instill in students a sense of purpose; that they can make a difference. This is an age where their sense of themselves becomes increasingly important, and they’re able to handle and better understand different perspectives,” Xavier says. “And this way, they also get a sense of contributions that they can make beyond this day to get a broader understanding of what it means to be part of a community.”
Below, we share some student reflections from Community Service Day.
“I made a difference in the place I visited during Service Day in a few different ways. The first part of our day of service was making muffins, as well as organizing socks and toiletries to hand out at an organization called Out of the Rain. This organization is mainly for youth who need a place to sleep and eat. We did not hand out the things we made and put together, but instead went and handed out food and drinks to people on the streets of Victoria outside of an organization called My Place (a homeless shelter for people of all ages). People were very appreciative of this, and it made me feel really good about myself, and my day! We then came back to the school, and had a very informative lecture from a volunteer at Out of the Rain. We gave her the muffins, the socks and all of the toiletries so she could hand them out! I had a really fun day with my friends helping out in my community, as well as making some people’s days a little bit brighter and better!” – by Charlotte C.
“For Service Day, I was part of the Eco-Warrior group. We started off the day with rethinking
our school recycling program. We began to redesign the Tower of Power labels and researched the garbage program. Next, I began to work with my group to build the garden beds behind the playground. We were successful in completing two garden beds. After lunch we went to Browning Park and removed invasive species such as blackberries and ivy. We made a huge difference to the environment, hopefully helping it regrow to its original state. I learned about different types of native and invasive plants, and their origins. I learned about different types of solar energy and different garbage programs within the municipalities. An overall lesson that I learned was teamwork makes everything easier.” – by Christian T.
“On Service Day, the Free the Children service group baked about 150 chocolate chip muffins and gathered all 458 pairs of socks that were donated at the Middle School. There were also toiletries donated at school, and we stuffed all of them in the socks. We donated all of the muffins, socks, and toiletries to the Out of the Rain youth shelter. After that, we went to My Place, where homeless people live. We met with a homeless person and he shared his experience with us. Then we set up stands outside, and served hot chocolate and muffins to people who walked by. I really thought that Service Day was a great opportunity for us to become more aware of our community and help serve the community, We got to understand more about the experiences of some people who are less fortunate than us. In the future, we should keep helping to raise awareness of homelessness, and take action on anything that will help end it.” – by Susan G.
“At Woodwynn Farms, I helped to mulch trees and protect them from diseases. At Our Place, I helped clean up tables after they had served lunch. Helping the community is very tiring, but fun. I learned that homeless people need a friend, because they would have someone to watch over their items and have someone who could shine light in a dark time.” – by Darius R.
“My service group joined with another group and we went to Mount Tolmie to pull out invasive weeds called Daphne Laurel and ivy. These plants are very aggressive and they are not native to the area. These plants are bad for the environment. For example, ivy is horrible for the trees because they cling themselves to trees and end up suffocating them! I am very happy that we helped our environment by trying to get rid of the invasive weeds. We did not get all of the weeds, but we definitely made a difference.” – by Alex B.
“We went off campus to provide service to My Place today. In the morning, we baked muffins and sorted the socks that we had been collecting as a school. Our goal was to collect 200 pairs of socks, but we got over 450 pairs! We gave the socks and muffins to a guest speaker who came to talk to us about Out of the Rain youth shelter, for youth 15 to 25. We set up a hot chocolate stand in front of My Place, and gave out muffins, hot chocolate and chocolates. I learned a lot today. I learned that homeless people need support. I learned that even just saying, “Hi” as you pass by someone on the street will make them realize that they aren’t invisible. There are many things we can do to help. Something all of us can do is donate socks and basic necessities to the homeless. Socks are very important to homeless people because of how much they walk around, with sometimes no shoes at all. I think that there are many things we can do to make this issue be less common.” – by Flynne G.
(photos by Catherine Cade, Craig Farish, Zyoji Jackson, Mike Danskin, Tanya Lee, Riley McQueen and Kyle Slavin)