Caring for Others: Service-Learning at The Gooden School

Published : Thursday, January 16, 2014 | 1:26 AM

Service-Learning, a teaching and learning strategy at The Gooden School, involves hands-on student involvement with vital causes throughout the year at every grade level. Many such opportunities were highlighted on Service-Learning Theme Day on Tuesday, January 14. Student involvement in meaningful local and global causes was demonstrated at four interactive stations on the campus.

“Caring for others is not only part of the fabric of student life at Gooden, it is woven into the curriculum as Service-Learning, and is fully embraced by each student,” said Patty Patano, Head of School at Gooden, an independent Episcopal school, kindergarten through 8th grade in Sierra Madre. “It’s rewarding to see how young students develop into compassionate and generous individuals, in part through personal service-learning experiences that stay with them.”

Service-Learning projects featured in the event included:

Homelessness: “How many of you had dinner last night? How many of you slept in a bed last night?” asked Donna Byrns, Director of Friends in Deed, which provides a food pantry and runs the Pasadena Bad Weather Shelter. All hands went up, as she then explained there were many in the Pasadena area who don’t have food to eat or a place to sleep.

“We’re excited about the warm scarves you’re making for homeless individuals right in this area. Your tag will let them know you care,” said Byrns as she accepted 120 fleece scarves and personalized gift tags made by students for homeless individuals the Pasadena Bad Weather Shelter, where homeless individuals in the Pasadena area can find a warm, dry place to sleep on the coldest days. Messages by students included:

•  “This is for you. Stay warm.” ~ Lars, 5th grade, with a drawing of the sun and sky.
•  “Stay warm and be loved!” ~ Julia, 3rd grade.
•  “Stay warm. We care about you.” ~ Oliver, 5th grade, who surrounded his message with colorful hearts.
•  “Everything that is bad turns good. Have hope.” ~ Atta, 7th grade.

“We are extremely grateful to the Pasadena Playhouse, which provided the funds to purchase enough warm fleece fabric to make 120 scarves for those seeking warmth on the coldest nights,” said Marianne Ryan, Director of Admissions at Gooden. The funds were raised by a special performance of “Aladdin” at the Pasadena Playhouse in December, with a percentage of the ticket sales benefitting Gooden.

Haitian Arts and Culture: Students learned about Haitian culture, art and music, and pack donated recorders for Gooden’s sister school, St. Jean Baptiste, in Jeanjan, Haiti. While listening to lively Haiitian music students created artwork inspired by Haitian art. “The music made me want to dance,” said Lucky, a 6th grader as he depicted a bird surrounded by fanciful swirls of color. “In Haiti, it’s bad luck if your hat falls off,” wrote Theo, 4th grade. Break time featured a traditional Haitian snack of red beans and rice, with lemonade (Riz et Pois, Limonade).

Water Conservation: James Carlson from the City of Sierra Madre engaged the students with a Powerpoint presentation on water conservation conveying how to use water wisely, and why every drop counts. When presented with the fact that the East Coast has too much rainwater, resulting in flooding, while our area is experiencing a drought, one young student asked, “Why isn’t there a pipeline to bring the surplus water to the West?” Carlson replied, “That would be one big pipeline!” Students jotted down many ways to save water indoors and out including taking shorter showers, checking for leaks, and sweeping driveways instead of hosing them down. As Carlson concluded, “If we do our part, we can each save 1,850 to 2,250 gallons of water per month.” Student response? “Wow.”

Endangered Animals: Students watched a video on endangered animals, discussed what they can do to help save them, then created and decorated masks representing their favorite animals. Tigers and pandas were popular. Students noted ways they can help endangered animals. “Don’t hunt. Don’t throw trash in the ocean. Don’t litter.” wrote Kaitlin, a third-grader. Another student piped up, “Help spread the word!” The focus on saving animals came from the Pasadena Humane Society, the Service-Learning focus for kindergarteners at Gooden.

Only a selection of Service-Learning projects were featured at today’s event. Another community project was highlighted in mid-December, when fifth-grade students from Gooden brought holiday cheer to the elderly at Monte Vista Grove senior community in Pasadena, with handmade wreaths, and holiday music, and personal greetings.

“Beyond the lovely Christmas music, it’s about bringing cheer by shaking hands with each senior, looking into their eyes, sharing a few words, and being genuine in our love,” said their teacher Jeni Cregan, as the students happily did just that wearing Santa hats, and big smiles. Throughout the year, the fifth graders will return to Monte Vista Grove for a variety of Service-Learning experiences bridging the gap between young and old, resulting in smiles all around.

Founded in 1975, The Gooden School is an independent Episcopal School, K-8, where academics and the arts come together. Reflecting Gooden’s high academic standards, and reputation for the arts and service-learning, graduates are accepted by many of the finest high schools in the area including Campbell Hall, Flintridge Prep, La Salle, Loyola, Mayfield, St. Francis and Westridge. For more information about The Gooden School, visit www.goodenschool.org.

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