The third grade at Tuxedo Park School has long carried on a tradition of service learning. Throughout the school year, each class visits the Promenade at Tuxedo, an assisted living facility. Together with residents they work on a service project that provides for an identified need in the local community. As we introduced this to the students this year, we used these guiding questions:
What might help us be prepared to talk with somebody we have never met?
What questions can we ask to start meaningful conversations?
How will we need to move and act so that we can make good connections with new people?
A book we use to prepare our students is Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. In the story, a young boy lives next door to an assisted living facility and befriends many of the older residents who live there. This story allowed students to relate to the little boy and also prepare for what they might encounter during their visit to the Promenade. Third graders are an inquisitive bunch. After spending many years learning the “what” and “how” of much of the world around them, they are cognitively equipped to think more abstractly. As a result, they are insatiably curious and driven to learn “why”. Eight and nine year olds love to socialize and ask questions. As such, third grade students thrive when given opportunities to talk, share humor, explain ideas, and make use of their increasingly rich vocabulary. While much of this is done in the classroom and in their free time, opening the door for interaction with another generation and in a new setting challenges them to take reasonable risks and apply their growing academic and social skills. Children at this age delight in traditions and group activities. Being able to connect their current skills with an activity that is meaningful and productive – via new relationships and community service – makes each trip to the Promenade all the more powerful and transformative for third graders at Tuxedo Park School.