By Brent Locke
The holidays are often a time of happiness and joy. They offer the chance to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, show love and affection for our friends and family, and to prepare for a fresh new year ahead. This time can also serve as an incredible opportunity to teach our children how to share this joy and love with others. Building a desire and passion for service has powerful social and academic impacts for children, and reinforcing this passion with your children is critical to building service as a life-long skill.
This school year Langley adopted the Roots and Shoots Service Learning program. The cornerstone of this program is to teach students the power of service, develop their love and understanding of service, and to create, measure and reflect on a service learning project. As we know, service of all kinds is a critical component to character and community building. Our goal is to push students to understand the difference between an act of community service and a service need that is identified, researched, planned, and executed by a student. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, when students participate in service activities that they have personally identified and chosen to do, there are significant positive impacts to: “academic performance(GPA, writing skills, critical thinking skills), values, self-efficacy, leadership (leadership activities, self-rated leadership ability, interpersonal skills).” (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, Lee)
As students realize the power they can have as individuals within their own community, their passion for service grows. The tough work comes in helping students actualize this potential.
Practicing Langley’s core value of kindness is perhaps the most tangible way our students can internalize the benefits of spreading joy and love beyond their family and friends during this holiday season. On the last day of school in December, on Langley’s “Day of Service”, the entire school took part in recognizing acts of kindness they have seen, heard, or experienced as a Langley student. Students shared things like: “I saw a teacher drop all of her papers and a bunch of 2nd graders stopped to help her pick them up” and “I saw someone fall down on the playground and another kid asked them if they were ok” and “I was scared on my first day of school and someone asked me if I would sit with them at lunch.” We wrote these down and decorated our very own Kindness Tree, which can be seen here.
The final part of the Day of Service gave students the chance to generate ideas of how they could spread kindness within their community during the winter break. Ideas ranged from serving food at a soup kitchen to helping elderly neighbors shovel snow. While the holiday break gives all of us the chance to relax and recharge our batteries, it also gives us the opportunity to build a love of service beyond the school walls, and to challenge our students to apply those ideas of kindness within their community. When children begin to realize that they can identify simple things within their community that they can change for the better, they begin to realize they are responsible and capable of making that change. So as you enjoy this break together with your family, ask your Langley student “how would you like to spread kindness today?” Happy Holidays!