Service learning, in which students’ projects are natural extensions of the academic curriculum, helps children make real life connections to their classroom work and teaches the skills and attitudes needed for responsible, active citizenship.
Grade-Level Service Projects
A major component of service learning involves specific grade-level service projects. These projects evolve over time and connect to the curriculum whenever possible. Examples include:
- Visits to the CRS Homeless Shelter and donations of boxes of pasta used as Purim groggers to the Upper West Side Food Bank as part of the Kindergarten’s Community Study
- A 2nd Grade Read-a-thon in which students raise money and purchase books to donate to area schools as part of their study of New York City
- A 5th Grade in-school service program in which fifth graders work with first grade buddies on a variety of projects designed to teach the value of derech eretz, appropriate ways to be part of a community
- A 6th Grade program in which students visit various organizations in New York City and
do hands-on service including cleaning parks, visiting homes for the elderly and homeless shelters, and packing matanot l’evonyim, gifts to the poor given at Purim
- An 8th Grade advocacy program in which students learn about the root causes of humanitarian issues throughout the world and, in particular, issues related to Israel. Every year, students participate in hands-on service with an organization in Israel during their culminating Israel trip.
In addition to projects, another expression of service learning at RSS is associated with the tradition of tzedakah.
To underscore the importance of tzedakah, the obligation to give charity to others, each homeroom class and middle school grade level has a tzedakah box to which students are asked to contribute at least a few coins on a weekly basis. The collections are then donated to organizations that connect to grade level curriculum.
In their classrooms, students learn about these organizations as well as the social justice issues they address. The specific organizations may change from year to year, but a few examples include: Central Park Conservancy, which connects to the Kindergarten Central Park curriculum; Heifer International, which connects to the 1st Grade farms and market curriculum, and HIAS (The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society which connects to the 3rd grade immigration curriculum.
In middle school, Student Council plays an active role in encouraging students to give tzedakah. Specific organizations are also identified by grade level. For example, the fifth grade donates to the Israeli Guide Dog Association and Heifer International, the 6th grade donates to the NYC organizations that they visit throughout the year, the 7th grade donates to the 7th Grade Philanthropy Project fund and the 8th grade donates to the Israeli organization they will work with on their Israel trip.