Community service in the Lower Division focuses on encouraging children to adopt habits of giving. Through outreach projects, school activities, and small group conversations, students explore values such as generosity, respect, kindness, commitment, passion, and integrity, which naturally complement all community service efforts.
All students in the Lower Division participate in a special school-wide community service project, the “Wrap In.” The Wrap In serves those less fortunate around the holiday season. Students write letters and donate gifts to children at the local Redlands Christian Migrant Association. Throughout the year, students also support other community service projects sponsored by the Middle and Upper Divisions, such as donating gently used clothing.
Many Lower Division students, with their parents, also participate in family service events. Just before the winter holidays, families, and faculty travel to the Feeding America and help sort food for those less fortunate. In the spring, families and faculty gather to package meals for low-income families supported by Feeding Children Everywhere to enjoy over Spring Break.
All Lower Division grade levels adopt their own unique community service outreach initiatives:
- Pre-Kindergarten – Students participate in school-wide service projects such as the Wrap In and grade level canned food drives.
- Kindergarten – Students support a service project created by a Berkeley Upper Division student called Socks for Love. Students form assembly lines and stuff socks with basic needs items, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, and sunscreen.
- Grade 1 – Students make products, like bookmarks and pencil toppers, to “sell” as part of their economics unit. Customers “pay” with canned food items. Then first graders stuff backpacks to support End 68 Hours of Hunger. In addition, during a letter writing unit, students compile a list of faculty and staff who touch their lives, including teachers, maintenance, housekeeping, and cafeteria staff, and then write them a personal thank you letter.
- Grade 2 – Students bake pumpkin bread and donate loaves to the the Berkeley Academy.
- Grade 3 – Students travel to Harbor Chase Senior Center to bring the gift of holiday cheer to the residents. The children sing holiday songs, with the help of our Spanish and music teachers. Third graders also assemble gift bags that are delivered to the Ronald McDonald House during the holiday season.
- Grade 4 – Students make Halloween gift bags for residents of the Children’s Home. Later in the year, students visit the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. Our children play with the three- and four-year-olds and share snacks. Students also sing to the children in Spanish and read to them.
- Grade 5 – All fifth graders serve on a service council. Councils include the Community Service Council, the Chaplain’s Advisory Board, Technology, Funfare (school news), and Ambassadors. Members of the Community Service Council help organize a school-wide food drive to benefit the Feeding America food bank, support a book drive, the Turkey Trot (where students collect basic needs items for The Children’s Home). As a culminating activity, Service Council members research service organizations and pick one to support with a break sale (bake sale) for Upper Division students. Last year’s break sale supported The Smile Train.
The Lower Division as a whole responds to the community and the world on an as-need basis as well. When natural disasters occur, the Lower Division children are quick to respond to help those in need. Teachers, staff, and administrators guide the children in their desire to assist others.
Students are not only encouraged to serve the needs of the outside community, but also meet routinely as a community to instill a strong sense of social responsibility. These community routines include Lower Division convocations, where students learn about core values and people in the world who are making positive differences. Students also participate in Discovery Groups one day a week. Discovery Groups are multi-age, small student groups who meet with a faculty member other than their classroom teacher. In these groups, a sense of community is further developed beyond a student’s class and grade. Discovery Groups provide students with additional opportunities to embrace habits of service, such as performing random acts of kindness and being gentle friends.
As our vision states, “Berkeley puts people in the world who make a positive difference.” Through all Lower Division community service projects, students learn they truly can fulfill this school vision.