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The City Journals

Blessed Sacrament School Theme, Club Tie Service Learning to Students

Nov 06, 2015 10:39AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Julie Slama

Sandy - Honored in mid-October with the National Promising Practice Award from the Character Education Partnership based in Washington D.C., Blessed Sacrament Catholic School incorporates its social justice theme into its student club, as well as into school curriculum.

Blessed Sacrament director of advancement Sonia West said that last year, each student wrote about the importance of literacy and included an illustration as part of its literacy peace pole project. Teachers discussed with students the importance of education and how many children around the world do not have the opportunity to attend school for a variety of reasons. The student statements were then placed on poles that were displayed with the school’s Family Literacy Night. 

The award the school received was its seventh. 

This year, the school’s 45-member Community of Caring Club is working with the school’s theme of “poverty” to bring service learning to its students.

Throughout the year, the afterschool club, which includes kindergarten through fifth-grade students, meets monthly to perform activities that tie into the schoolwide effort to help make students aware of issues concerning those in poverty. 

For example, beginning in September, the club started a postage stamp collection for the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Students can place postage stamps in a bin set up by the club throughout the year. When they collect 15 pounds of stamps, they’ll send them to the nuns, who then sell the stamps to collectors to help with the Holy Cross Ministries to the Poor. In the past, they’ve helped fund students to take high school exams in Bangladesh, provide dental and vision care in rural Virginia and helped get science supplies for classrooms that lack materials, West said.

As the year goes on, the club will participate in an eyeglass collection that will be sent to those in need in South America,  and in the Scholastic book pajama/book service project, which allows students to donate youth and adult pajamas for the “Great Bedtime Pajama Drive.” In the past four years, children in need have received 250,000 pairs of pajamas, West said.

“It’s fun since our students can wear their pajamas during this time,” she said.

In April, the student club, under the direction of teachers Melodie Franco and Shelley Luna, plans to distribute blue ribbons for World Malaria Day in April.

“They’ll talk about what they can do to continue helping, and review what they’ve done to make a difference. The students in this club focus on building awareness of the five character traits of caring, respect, responsibility, trust and family. Their activities will revolve around virtue, action and the Saint of the Month,” she said.

All of the club activities tie into service learning that is being taught in all the grades at school, with each month having a different emphasis on the year-long social justice poverty focus.

“We’ll focus on the cycle of poverty in Africa because there is disease, lack of clothing, shelter and food, as well as lack of education, medical assistance, and many war-torn nations,” West said.

At the beginning of the school year, each class wrote a class statement on poverty and how the students can facilitate change. Next, the art club will illustrate the statements, and these will be bound together in a literary magazine format and then sold to raise money for Life Straws, which allows people in third-world countries to drink water through a water filtration system, West said. 

This past month, students collected canned goods and staples for the Carmelite Nuns. Each class will focus on a different religious order and, at an all-school assembly, the classes will present their research, she said.

In November, students will create and laminate about 250 placemats for the Ronald McDonald House and the Veterans Administration’s Fisher House, a place where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.

“The students will illustrate buff colored paper that we’ll laminate, and the Community of Caring Club will trim and help deliver them,” West said.

In December, students will work with the student council to collect items for Candy Cane Corner at the Road Home. 

“The student council will deliver the donations, along with wrapping paper, so parents at the shelter can select things their kids will want and be able to wrap them right there. Then our student council members will tour the facility and see how it helps and serves this population,” West said.

Early in 2016, the school will focus on clean water and diseases associated from not having pure water. Students also will focus on creating clothing for children in need by collecting pillowcases. Then, with the help of community members, dresses will be made from a pattern with each pillowcase. West hopes 200 dresses will be sent to African countries.

“We’ll talk about these issues during our religion classes, learning about the lack of education, lack of water, lack of clothing in these countries,” she said.

During the school’s Family Math and Science Night, there will be a table that deals with clean water and water-born diseases, specifically malaria. At the booth, students will create a Life Straw, learn about filtration and collect donations to purchase Life Straws for those areas in need of clean water.

In March, the school will look at disaster relief and highlight World Water Day on March 22. They plan to participate in Stop Hunger Now, packaging beans and rice into quart-size meals.

“We hope to create at least 10,000 meals, and possibly work with neighboring schools with this project,” she said.

In April, the school will collect old sheets as part of helping South American children with Operation Smile. Students will cut out a doll pattern from the sheets.

“We’ll make dolls with hearts on them. These will be shipped to Virginia and then distributed by the doctors in South America prior to the operations. They don’t want any embellishments, but rather to use them as a tool for understanding surgeries they may need to help them with cleft palates and others,” West said.

She also hopes to schedule a local doctor who participates in Operation Smile to come and speak with the students.

By the end of the year, West said students will refocus on their beginning-of-the-year statements.

“We’ll ask them again what poverty is, how their views of poverty have changed, how they feel they’ve helped and ask them to rewrite their statements. We hope students gain a realization that we’re part of a bigger picture and that this all adds up to a bigger, global community,” she said.