Bertram Rantin

April 11, 2014

RANTIN: In MIdlands schools, hands on lessons in the ABC’s of service

Learning took the form of gardening, cleaning and sorting and was paired with various other acts of community service at Glenforest School this week.

Learning took the form of gardening, cleaning and sorting and was paired with various other acts of community service at Glenforest School this week.

Students and staff from the West Columbia School took to the streets to lend a hand at several area service agencies as part of the school’s annual Spring Experience.

“This is the second time this year we have taken service learning to the streets of Columbia,” said, Susan Shope Thomas, Glenforest’s head of school.

Thomas said the school has offered diverse learning opportunities during past spring experiences but decided to emphasize service learning this year to help the students – many who have been diagnosed with mild disabilities – focus on giving while also creating a stronger connection between the school and the community.

“Our behavior is learned and practicing good habits will hopefully become a lifetime skill,” Thomas said. “Everyone has something to give. If we provide students the opportunity to recognize the needs of others and feel that they are playing a role in impacting their community at an early age through giving, I believe we have created our next generation of volunteers.”

Glenforest students embraced that thinking Thursday and again Friday as they completed a range of tasks that included read to young children, organized items in food pantries, prepared food items for distribution, and sorted and organized clothing.

The school’s roughly 60 students were divided into mixed teams of elementary, middle and high school students.

Children’s Garden Child Development Early Head Start Center was one of the week’s stops where the Glenforest students read books to the children and planted a flower garden.

Glenforest 10th-grader Tanner Green said he enjoyed the experience.

“A lot of them don’t have a lot,” Green said. “It’s good to give back and help them out.”

Children’s Garden director, Althea Benson, said it was good to see the school helping develop a younger generation of volunteers.

The week’s other stops included Tender Years Child Development Center, Arthurtown Child Development Center, Children’s Garden Child Development Early Head Start Center, Lexington Interfaith Community Services, The Dickerson Center and Harvest Hope Food Bank.

Thomas said the school had contacted several area charitable organizations and offered to volunteer.

“We are hoping that we will have the opportunity with more organizations in the future,” she said. “Students must see the relevance of learning their rigorous curriculum and form relationships both within and outside the school.”

The Spring Experience is the latest in a long line of service learning activities at Glenforest, which takes part in a different project roughly every six weeks.

In January the school walked in an effort to draw awareness to “Samaritan’s Feet,” which provides shoes for needy children that Glenforest has supported for several years.

“We plan to continue our service learning projects, which enable our students to explore career opportunities in the community and teaches them the spirit of volunteerism,” Thomas said.

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