Eleven fifth-graders from Roy De Shane Elementary School, in Carol Stream, Ill., recently spent the morning with Marklund Philip Center residents, reading books, playing games and assisting them with crafts.
The service project took place on May 9, as part of the school's problem-based learning -- a student-centered approach in which they learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem.
"One of the goals of the project was to instill in students a passion for service," said Teacher Tracy Legner. "We wanted to ignite a fire for giving of yourself, and learning you can make a difference at any age."
The project came together after students completed a variety of assignments. For example, they brainstormed on different needs throughout their community, and then narrowed their project to organizations that serve children with disabilities. They then researched such sites as CharityNavigator.com to learn more about organizations' ratings and overhead costs. After choosing Marklund, students researched its website for information on the age requirements to volunteer, and the different ways to serve.
As part of their project, students also had to determine how they'd get to and from Marklund. They created a presentation for the school district's business manager, describing their service project, with the hope that the district would fund their transportation costs.
"When they agreed to fund our trip, I was really excited," said Aaliyah Tally-Sierra, one of the students. "We cheered and celebrated when we learned they said "yes" to paying for our bus ride."
Aaliyah rallied students behind Marklund, and took on a leadership role on the project, Legner said. "She shared how her aunt had been a resident of Marklund. Her personal story garnered the enthusiasm of the other students, and helped them decide to do their service project at Marklund."
"My heart felt really warm and happy that we were going to serve at Marklund," Aaliyah said. "I wanted to do something to help people with special needs, like my aunt."
"The intention of our students was to help, but they are realizing they are getting more out of the experience than they are giving," Legner said. "It is exciting to think of our students growing into adults who will give back to their communities."