Over the past month on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Madeline Ainsworth and her classmates Stella Smith and Teresa Delgado have gathered at the school’s nurses’ office, painting one of the white walls pink. Unfinished flowers bloom at the corners of the wall and meet in the middle where a bold statement, still in pencil, reads: “Be you. Be kind. Be amazing.
The mural is part of the Ainsworth, Smith and Delgado community service project, a culmination of teamwork and tenacity. The three, who are all in eighth grade at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, said they wanted to focus their project on positivity and decided to design a mural with a mantra. Brooks is at 325 S. Kenilworth Ave.
“I hope that when they [staff and students] see it, they’re smiling, ”Ainsworth said.
And Ainsworth, Smith, and Delgado aren’t the only eighth-graders at Brooks with big ideas.
Take Zoe Swanson and Jamera Barnes: the couple spent weeks drawing and coloring 150 greeting cards for residents of Oak Park Arms, a nearby senior citizen’s residence. Meanwhile, other students such as Sophia Chavez, Kate Kjarsgaard and Francesca Cajina recently drafted a Land and Work Acknowledgment to recognize enslaved blacks and indigenous communities and are working with teachers and administrators to create a public exhibition.
Service projects create pockets of opportunity for students to explore their passions, said Veena Rajashekar, an International Baccalaureate (IB) program and special zone coordinator at Oak Park Elementary School District 97. Rajashekar said the district 97 offers college students Brooks and Percy Julian an IB. program called Middle Years, which emphasizes student development and engagement. Percy Julian Middle School is located at 416 S. Ridgeland Ave.
This means that sixth and seventh graders often work on service-oriented activities and projects in the classroom and as a whole, while eighth graders can develop their own ideas and choose to partner with others. other students or work alone. Eighth grade students are encouraged to journal the progress of their projects, as well as share with their classmates the lessons they have learned along the way.
“IB aims to train lifelong learners in and out of the classroom, so it provides opportunities for students to put their learning into practice,” said Rajashekar.
Chavez explained that his group’s plans to present a land recognition and school property work are to own America’s past and honor those who “built this land.” Chavez, Cajun, and Kjarsgaard noted that they also see recognition as a branch of inclusiveness, a branch they hope future students of color see as a welcome sign.
“I am Mexican. I like to recognize [my] ancestors and the people who came before me, ”said Chavez, adding that she had already painted a few pieces to accompany the recognition. “When it comes to this project, I feel like it’s a big topic that needs to be discussed and not many people like to recognize. “
Kjarsgaard interjected, “I think it’s important to get a message out because no manual or anything talks about it, because they’re just trying to erase what happened.”
Beyond this, the goal of service projects is to help students understand the true meaning of community and to build relationships with the people around them. Rajashekar noted that the IB curriculum provides little guidance on what the project should involve, allowing students to freely interpret the definition of community and to collaborate.
“It’s up to the students to decide what the community means to them, so you can see the different types of projects and ideas that come out of them,” she said.