CHCA's 7th & 8th grade students recently participated in a three-day service learning program called, "Changing Our World."
The goal was for students to engage with the community from a place of mutual respect and admiration for the people they serve, rather than from a place of pity. Students were also able to integrate character strengths into their experience, applying to their lives that all people have character strengths, regardless of their current situation.
The three-day program kicked off in partnership with the Mayerson Foundation and the Mayerson Academy's test of incorporating character strengths curriculum into service-learning. That first day, a trainer from the Mayerson Academy introduced students to their VIAme strengths reports, explaining that all students have 24 strengths. She then led a series of activities in which students more intimately learned about strengths within themselves and in each other. The students followed this experience by sharing a traditional Haitian-style lunch of beans and rice. Following lunch, they discussed what character strengths students saw within this small experience. The common language among the students were self-control, gratitude, perspective, hope, appreciation of beauty and excellence, judgment, and fairness.
Following this experience, the students engaged in impactful simulations led by the Restavek Freedom Foundation, being educated about the plights of child slaves in Haiti.
The second day began with students writing their top character strengths on a piece of duct tape and placing it on their arms.
They wore their strengths while going to Matthew 25 Ministries, where they sorted humanitarian aid donations. Students were not only aware of their own strengths for the day, but of their peers as well, all of which were leveraged to successfully serve that day. The students were able to indirectly support over 80,000 people through their service at M25M!
On the third day, students went to a variety of social service agencies throughout the community. These places included direct service Cedar Village Retirement Community and Twin Lakes, A Life Enriching Community, Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Crayons to Computers, and Society of St. Vincent DePaul. They even made a stop visiting fellow students at Armleder while downtown! Each student wore a name tag with both their first name and one of their top five character strengths, which created great conversation with the community friends. When students returned to campus, they did a variety of reflection activities: one included an opportunity to share why their work mattered, and where they saw a character strength displayed in someone they served. Immediately, students were able to recall strengths in others: where the person they served wasn't seen as weak, or defined by a label, but rather, strong and defined by God.
While serving at Cedar Village, the students spent time with the residents. Grade 7 student Cooper Schneider shared, "When talking to the elderly, it's like a time-machine back to when they were young." They also wrote poems together with members of the retirement community. The theme of the poems was "We Are From."
We are from Cincinnati
A place of diverse culture
And very unpredictable weather
Farms grow very prosperous here
And the land is very vast
We are from Mason to Anderson
West Chester to Sharonville
We are Brave, Creative, Zesty, and Spiritual
We are different, and the same
by Jake, Geneva, Justin, and Colin
Even though 81 years apart, we are connected
By our love for God, music, and family
We love our schools
All like chocolate chip cookies
We like Christmas, and Christmas songs
Like stories in movies, books
Forgiveness is hard to do, but good
We need people
by Billy and Ruth
We are from Cincinnati
We are from Lima
We are from the backyard of pretty lands
We are from places of nice people
We are from the outside
We are from houses with pets
by Suzanne, Elise, Sarah, and Faye
At the closing celebration back home at CHCA, students enjoyed refreshments and games, and also took time to write their character strength on their face and have a Polaroid photo taken of themselves to place on a world map. The map was entitled "Changing Our World with. . ." The map now hangs in the Upper School 7/8 hallway and is a tangible reminder to students of the character strengths that they possess and saw in action most prominently throughout the three days.
In three short days, they became aware, they explored, and they applied character strengths to themselves, and most importantly, to others.
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