Berlin Elementary kids get lesson in community service

Berlin Elementary kids get lesson in community service

At one time, the leaders who steer Holmes County Share-a-Christmas were all elementary-age students whose thoughts were probably far removed from figuring out how they could one day become a leader in their community.

Somewhere along their paths, they were taught the value of leadership, and thus when a group of students from Berlin Elementary was given the chance to be a part of the next step in the Holmes County Share-a-Christmas effort to provide for families in need in Holmes County during the Christmas season, it served as a valuable tool in developing their leadership skills.

The Berlin Elementary service-learning team is under the direction of teacher Megan Weaver, who works closely with the leadership kids in putting together the Share-a-Christmas canned goods drive for Berlin Elementary.

Berlin principal Darren Blochlinger and SAC chairman Bob Porter stay connected throughout the season of giving during Share-a-Christmas, and both said the kids enjoy competing with the other classes to raise the most canned goods during their SAC canned goods drive.

However, Blochlinger said they wanted to introduce an even greater learning experience to the kids and asked Porter what his service-learning kids could do to enhance their vision as to the process behind Share-a-Christmas.

“I know the kids see the food being brought in, but I really wanted them to experience the other half of the process, to see where the food goes and how it’s distributed,” Blochlinger said. “We wanted them to be able to take more of an active role to understand that there’s more to the process than just bringing the food to school and dropping it off.”

He added that in the future he hopes to introduce the final step of the process to the kids and take them on a delivery of the goods to area families, so students can see where the efforts of themselves and the community really pay off.

He said it’s an educational opportunity that extends well beyond the classroom and one that should really stick with the kids.

“The Leader in Me program is about educating the whole child,” Blochlinger said. “The academic part of what we teach is so important, but these life skills and showing kids there are people in our backyard in need helps prepare them to be a leader and servant in their community in many ways.”

Included in the trip were the Leader in Me students, including Kinsley Stoltzfus, Lauren Weaver, Micah Miller, Rylan Miller, Rory Conn, Avery Bolling and Beatrice Schlabach. They distributed a few different products to each of the family recipients of Share-a-Christmas during their visit.

Also attending were Olivia Austin and Meadow Kellogg, who serve on the yearbook team and were on hand to record the event with plenty of photos while also lending a hand in distributing the goods to the 200 boxes.

Megan Weaver said the Leader in Me group meets once a month, but during a project like this one, they meet frequently. She said the goal of the group is designed to teach life skills, promoting the idea that their actions have consequences while also building etiquette and life skills that will enhance their lives as they grow.

“There’s a lot that goes into it that goes well beyond the classroom,” Weaver said. “One of the biggest things is that it teaches them that the things they do affects others and can have a positive or negative ripple effect."

She said that while she doesn’t remember specific math or history classes in school during her elementary years, she does remember activities like this one and hopes it’s the same for students today.

“What I like about the service-learning team is that they are actively seeking out ways to serve the community,” Weaver said. “Collecting cans and talking about why we are doing it is huge, but actually getting to come here and place the items in boxes and serve families is so important and hopefully these lessons carry on with them throughout their lives.”

She said the group also does the recycling work and creates a spring fundraiser every year as part of their role in the community, an activity that served to aid the efforts in Ukraine last spring.

Weaver said they have a variety of teams in the school, and for the service-learning team, teachers nominate students they feel would fit best and benefit the most from being part of the group.

Each student had to sign contracts accepting the goals and purpose of the group. The group includes students between third and sixth grade.

She said this group oversaw counting canned goods each day during the drive, a job she said they took very seriously, with a school-wide goal of 2,000 cans.

The winning class received doughnuts and hot chocolate and a special movie day prior to Christmas break.

“They came to my room without being asked, grabbed their clipboards and went to work tallying cans for each classroom,” Weaver said.

Porter said these types of experiences are invaluable to young students, and as a former teacher at West Holmes High School, he understands the value of teaching young people the value and purpose of community service.

He was excited about bringing the students to the Baker Building to participate because it gives them a better sense of where their effort to raise canned goods goes and how it affects families in Holmes County who receive these blessings.

“Our kids in both East and West Holmes did an amazing job in bringing in food,” Porter said. “18,500 pounds of food is a new record for us, and these kids are the driving force behind that. For them to get this type of experience in giving to others is critical because they are the ones who will be leading Share-a-Christmas in the future.”