“I never knew that kids might need our help, too; I thought it was only adults.” That idea gave added meaning to last Friday’s service learning projects, which had Lower School students busily decorating placemats and chopping vegetables for the initiative dubbed SFS Lower School DoES (Drop Everything and Serve). Although Sidwell Friends has long partnered with Martha’s Table and Bethesda Cares, this fall the Lower School Service Learning Committee set out to engage all of the students on campus in rolling up their sleeves and helping others.
The committee brought together faculty, staff, and parents for a series of grade-appropriate activities. As 2nd grade teacher Teresita Cuesta reports, “It was fun to see [Head of School] Bryan Garman decorating a magnet next to a 1st grader, [Executive Assistant] Liz Stoneham carrying buckets of chopped veggies for kindergartners, and [LS Principal] Shereen Beydoun threading yarn to decorate placemats with 2nd graders.”
Everyone helped with the placemats for Martha’s Table, with 2nd and 4th graders adding utensil wrappers and centerpieces so that people attending the organization’s Community Harvest Dinner would “feel our love.” Third graders made sandwiches for Bethesda Cares clients and walked to the center to deliver them in person. First graders made beautiful refrigerator magnets to remind Lower School families to bring in fresh vegetables on Wednesdays. Kindergartners and PKers chopped veggies and learned how Martha’s Table transforms the produce into soups and stir-frys. As the soup was bubbling, they talked about community and healthy eating and how simple giving from one household can help others.
For Shoshanna Sumka, coordinator of Global Initiatives and Service Learning, and the many faculty and staff members who have been working to make service learning more hands-on, the event was a great success. The thoughtful words of the students were the biggest measure of that success: “I feel like I should do more!” and “We didn’t donate money; we donated our spirit.”