School-Wide and Individual Class Community Service Learning!
In addition to ongoing school-wide projects, each class at The Willows participates in a year-long community service project. Teachers partner with parent volunteers from the Community Service Committee to identify appropriate and meaningful projects for the students. “We try to be very thoughtful about the projects that we choose,” explains Lower School Director Terri Baird. “We want the community service to be developmentally appropriate, so children can feel like they’re helping out and having an impact.”
In many cases, classes seek projects connected directly to their curricular learning. Fourth graders, for example, learn about California’s native species and endangered animals – so it makes perfect sense for them to fundraise for Wildworks, a local organization caring for injured or homeless animals.
“It’s great when the projects themselves are fun, rewarding, and meaningful,” says Terri. “But really, our biggest goal of all is to foster a lifelong commitment to service. If we can get our kids in the habit of helping others now, we’re halfway there.”
Take a closer look at some of the grade-level service projects that Willows students have participated in over the years:
DK: Cleaning out the Closets! Clothing Drives for Operation USA
DK students collaborate with Operation USA, an aid organization that provides assistance to grassroots organizations around the world. DK students have visited Operation USA’s office just down the street on Hayden Avenue and continue to conduct clothing drives on their behalf.
Kindergarten: Baked Goods become Backpacks for St. Joseph’s
Kindergarteners partner with St. Joseph’s Center, which provides aid and resources to needy families in the Los Angeles area. Each year, the children hold a fundraiser, selling items ranging from smoothies to baked goods, using the money they earn to buy backpacks and blankets for the center.
First Grade: Spreading the Love of Reading - from your library to theirs!
Over the years, Willows first graders have collected thousands of books from Willows families for donation to charities that redistribute them to needy readers. This year, students collected gently used books for BookEnds, an organization that recycles children’s books through student-run book drives and places them in schools and youth organizations in need of books.
Second Grade: Saving the Oceans
Third Grade: Trailblazing for PATH
Third graders are the standard-bearers for the PATH lunch program, a Willows service tradition. Every Wednesday morning, students collect the lunches Willows students are donating to PATH; these lunches are delivered later in the day to the PATH facility and distributed to PATH residents, who use them when going out for job interviews.
Fourth Grade: Working for Wildlife
In conjunction with their study of California’s native plants and wildlife, fourth graders support Wildworks, a local organization that cares for injured or homeless animals. Each year, students welcome a Wildworks representative who explains the organization’s mission and brings animals for the children to meet.
Fifth Grade: Each Penny Counts!
Middle Schoolers: Buddying Up at the West Side Children’s Center
For many years, The Willows’ sixth graders have volunteered their time at the Westside Children’s Center, a full-service care center for vulnerable preschool-aged children. Sixth graders visit the center once a month to work and play with the children. In recent years, middle schoolers have increased their commitment to the center with other student groups, such as the Middle School Choir and the drama elective, visiting regularly for special performances and presentations.