“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Community service for kids is one of the initial concepts that inspired us to create this program because we feel it’s never too early to show children that small acts of kindness can make a big difference.
When designing our program, we wanted to find a balance between providing plenty of free time for kids to learn simply through play, and introducing themes that showed connections between art, literature, toys, games, and actions (specifically, how our actions can affect others).
In order to find that balance, we try to do at least one service project each month after gradually introducing a theme over a couple of weeks.
We also strive to show the value of small acts of kindness each day from creating art to decorate the classroom or give to a parent, to sharing toys and making someone smile by telling them a joke.
At the end of our classroom, hung high on the wall are large letters spelling the words, “BE KIND.” Throughout our first two months after opening, our kids worked together to decorate each letter with various mediums. This message is less of an order (as in “Be nice and behave!” than a gentle reminder to the children, and to ourselves, that in a world where you can be anything, be kind).
Art 2 Action
Inspired by the famous pop art of Andy Warhol and the book Stone Soup, kids chopped and peeled vegetables to make actual vegetable soup, which we then donated and served to the women at Ruth’s House Women’s Shelter.
When You Have More Than You Need, Build A Longer Table…
In our case, it was another kitchen, which we donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ohio Valley
This community service project was inspired by a mistake and a case of overabundance. When ordering a myriad of things from Ikea, I mistakenly ordered two play kitchens. Instead of figuring out how to get the surplus kitchen to the nearest store, we decided to give the kids the opportunity to build the play kitchen and donate it. In looking for a book to connect to this project, I remembered a childhood favorite of mine, Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola. In this story, Big Anthony mistakenly makes an overabundance of pasta. While the character Big Anthony is typically remembered for his foolish actions, we focused on how he used the opportunity to feed his entire village.
Over a couple weeks, the younger children engaged in a number of spaghetti-related activities including making spaghetti paintbrushes, testing the strength of dry spaghetti noodles, making noodles out of cucumbers, and even how to eat spaghetti with chopsticks. In the afternoons, the older children studied the Ikea assembly instructions, grabbed their Allen wrenches, and got to work assembling the play kitchen. The next week, a group of the kids met at our local Ronald McDonald House to donate the kitchen along with a pasta play food set donated by one of our kiddo’s parents.