As a apart of Anatomical Quality Assessment (AQUA) standards, SEL site coordinators and their afterschool students are required to do a community event. The activity is curated through youth-led community service projects. The students nominated and then voted on a project and selected a food drive. With springtime being in full effect students came up with the concept of giving away gift baskets with canned goods inside.
Alongside the canned food drive, after school program staff developed a two-week curriculum to discuss the importance of healthy living and giving as part of mindfulness.
One of the main activities the students enjoyed was reading the book “Uncle Willie and The Soup Kitchen,” by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. In the story, Uncle Willie volunteered his time in the community. The uncle wanted to instill the importance of volunteering to his nephew, in hopes that the nephew would follow in his uncle’s footsteps.
After reading the book, the students were asked reflection questions. They were separated into two groups with age-appropriate questions for each age group. Group A was kindergarten through third grade and group B was fourth and fifth grade. The questions included:
1. Why it’s important to volunteer? Why is it important to volunteer at food pantries?
2. When might a person need to visit a soup kitchen or food pantry? What experiences might they be going through?
3. Could you relate or identify with someone in the community center from the book?
4. Why is it important to give back to others?
5. What are some ways other than money that you can give back?
6. If you could give back somewhere, where would it be? Why?
The next week the students learned how to cook from Master Teaching Artist Jennifer Kindert. She shared the importance of giving back in healthy ways and introduced an international dish, Mexican fruit. The two main lessons were learning the importance of cooking for yourself (mindful eating) and the importance of giving healthy foods to others.
Following the two-week lesson plan, the students collected canned goods for their gift baskets. Weiss School Counselor, Tiffany Daniels started a food pantry initiative and partnered with an agency to keep the initiative alive. The students were thrilled and collected more than 200 cans. Half of the canned goods were donated to the North Texas Food Bank and the other half were used as gift baskets to the food pantry at Martin Weiss. The food at the North Texas Food Bank was also made available for families of Martin Weiss Elementary.
SEL Coordinator Deborah Carey stated the only challenge was getting a speaker from North Texas Food Bank to talk about the food pantry to the students.
The staff realized that the community service initiative was a success when they could see the enthusiasm and commitment of the youth for the project. From learning to cook, promoting the food drive, and visiting the food pantry, the youth demonstrated their commitment and perseverance throughout the project.