Nobody anticipated the impact of COVID on service learning when schools went remote in March 2020. In-school classrooms changed overnight to online remote learning centers and most small groups (including K-Kids) could not meet in person. But it was clear that the parents of students at Granville Elementary School wanted to supplement service learning at home. And the kids and Kiwanians would be happy to see each other again.
At the Kiwanis Club of Granville, we came up with a solution: For the remainder of the school year, we partnered with the principal and Jessica Wilson, the K-Kids faculty advisor and a Granville club member, to host monthly service challenges for the entire school.
The topic was relevant to the time of year (for example, Earth Day and recycling in April) and the school’s needs (a sock drive to complement the empathy theme for Reading Week). Each month, Jessica introduced the topic to students and parents through the principal’s online communications. She gave clear details about the service project, including a way to sign up with a deadline. She also attached a short instructional and motivational video.
When some students returned to in-school hybrid learning, we still could not meet in person. In fact, our K-Kids meeting room had become the storage room for desks and chairs that were removed so students could spread out when in person. In addition, the advisor’s and parents’ time was spread thin — coordinating Zoom-like meetings with the students was not feasible.
The remote service-learning monthly video challenge seemed to be our best opportunity to continue. Parents and other family members could also participate according to their own schedules. And we all discovered new project opportunities that could include more of the students and their families.
As we move into the 2021-22 school year, all students are meeting in person. However, the K-Kids club’s meeting room is still not available and COVID is still a concern. So we’re planning to continue this all-school approach with the monthly service challenges — while empowering the K-Kids to initiate, plan and lead the projects. The Kiwanis club will provide guidance and financial support as needed.
We committed to staying active last year and we learned a lot. We demonstrated that we can accomplish great things when we are creative, receptive to new ideas and mindful of others’ needs and feelings. Under difficult conditions, K-Kids proved they’re eager to serve — and ready to embrace challenges.
November: Veteran’s Day appreciation. A video tour of a new armed forces Veteran’s Memorial at the local cemetery. The Veteran was a grandparent of a former K-Kid and his granddaughter helped him to record the video. K-Kids, other students and their families were invited to write letters to Veterans or give them to their neighbors or family. The address was provided to mail them.
December: Holiday decorations for senior living centers. A video tour of a senior center was created by a K-Kid grandparent who shared with the students how much their art would be appreciated and where it would be placed. The Kiwanis club purchased over 600 festive holiday door hanger kits from Oriental Trading Co. These kits were inexpensive and easy to assemble with pre-cut, self-adhesive parts. All creations were accepted. The advisor created a “Sign-Up Genius” sign-up for parents to reserve one or more kits. Kits to assemble were distributed at school or picked up at the front office for remote learners. Completed hangers were deposited in a collection box and distributed after quarantine to residence facilities with a handmade note or an Avery label “Created with Kindness by Granville K-Kids.”
January: Pet food and toy drive for the local animal shelter. A link to the animal shelter and an updated list of needed items or opportunity to donate funds directly was shared. The Kiwanis club and Aktion club also contributed items that were collected at school then delivered to the shelter. In the past the K-Kids would create posters to promote the project, record the items, share the total with the school and help deliver. They learned about the need for pet food for seniors living at home on limited income and donated pet food to go to Meals-on-Wheels also.
February: Make a meal for your family or neighbors. A video of how to make homemade pancakes, waffles, French toast and oatmeal was created by a Kiwanis volunteer. The challenge highlighted the Kiwanis Club’s homemade Maple Syrup project. Traditionally the club would host a Pancake Day fundraiser in February at which all of the sponsored leadership programs including K-Kids would participate, serve and help clean up. The Pancake Day fundraiser was canceled due to COVID, so we challenged the kiddos to make a meal for their family (pancakes can be dinner too!). The kiddos could report their effort and a photo to the Principal for a chance to win a quart of maple syrup as a thank you from the Kiwanis club.
March: Fairy gardens with a letter exchange at local senior centers. A K-Kid familiar with the senior center created a fairy garden as an example. She shared it in a video encouraging other students and their families to participate. The advisor presented the details to parents who could sign-up using Sign-Up Genius. The Kiwanis club donated clear plastic bases purchased from Dollar Tree and drilled a water hole since many would contain living plants and then could be placed on a patio or courtyard. They also provided materials to the Senior center to create their own. Personalized letters were also exchanged which added meaning to the project. The Seniors were first given fill-in the blank form letters to introduce themselves, which were distributed with the empty fairy garden base. The students in turn created the fairy gardens and filled-in a reciprocal letter to personalize the gift. Parents shared photos of the students with their creations with the school and on their own Facebook pages. The senior centers were equally excited to promote their joy in receiving and creating their own. Over 50 gardens were donated and over 150 students and family members participated in the project. A very popular project!
April: Sock drive during the Principal’s Reading Week. Students, with help of Kiwanis, collected new socks to be given to those in need through local shelters and food pantries. One classroom tabulated the collection and posed for a group photo. The Principal created posters and inspired the drive through his selected reading material focused on empathy. (KiwanisKids.org has additional material on related topics including anti-bullying, school kindness, thankfulness and gratitude, hunger and food insecurity and global health that could tie into this service Reading Week concept and support K-Kids also.)
End-of-year celebration! Traditionally we hosted an outdoor social with ice cream or sno-cones, sidewalk chalk or other family service project, awards and certificates, and photos of the year for parents to see. Many of the parents highlighted projects on their personal Facebook pages. One could easily create a narrated slideshow highlighting these projects to share with the school and parents. The students’ efforts and community participation should be recognized and help promote K-Kids.
Submitted by Jennifer Lewis PhD and Jessica Wilson PhD
Jennifer is the Kiwanis advisor of the Granville Elementary School K-Kids Club and the Ohio District’s K-Kids administrator for 2021-22. Jessica is the faculty advisor of the Granville Elementary School K-Kids and a member of the Kiwanis Club of Granville.