My children’s school has a wonderful service learning program that teaches the children about different areas of need within our community. It is taught in an age appropriate way with lots of hands on learning. Each grade level has a “focus” for the school year. The children are visited by representatives of local organizations to inform them how they help those in need. We also have service field trips to the organizations and do service projects.
The 4th grade “focus” is the disabled of our community. We try to teach them about the disability and how the people are just like us they just have to live a little differently. Maria, a blind woman, has visited our school for the last 8 years to talk to our students. She makes the biggest impression. We also facilitate a “Disability Workshop” in the 4th grade. We set up hands on stations to allow the children to have a glimpse of that disability. The children were able to maneuver a wheelchair and crutches along a small obstacle course. They also guided a classmate who was blindfolded and poured water into a cup blindfolded. They wrote with a pencil in their teeth as well as between their toes. The children laughed and played.
I am the coordinator of the service learning program. I explained to them that I wanted them to have fun but to think about what it would be like if they had to stay in that wheelchair all day every day. I asked them “how would you get around your house in a wheelchair? Do you have stairs to your bedroom?” One child said to me “Ms. Disselkamp it is fun to ride in the wheel chair but I cannot imagine having to do it forever.”
The reason I voluntarily have coordinated this program for 8 years now is because I want our children to be exposed to the needs of our society. I want them to understand, empathize and want to help others. I also want to give them a way to help these people through our service efforts. I believe God calls each of us to help our fellow brothers and sisters. God is our Father and we are all family. So I am teaching them how to care for their extended family.
As adults we set the example for our children. If we teach our children about those in need and how to serve them they will make our world a better place. If we teach our children to hold on to what they have and only think about their own needs that is what they will do.
We as adults especially parents are forming the actions of our children in what we do and choose not to do in the here and now.