Children Learn Math, Life Skills and So Much More

Everyone, regardless of where they are in life –be it a second grader or at a homeless shelter or at a nursing home- can help make their community a better place to live.

 At least, that’s the message that about 100 second graders at Godfrey Lee’s Early Childhood Center have been getting through a service learning program that gives them the opportunity to serve others while learning math, nutrition and even bird house construction. “Even though you attend a school that receives free school lunches and you might need some resources, there’s always an area where you can give yourself,” said Char Walsh, who organized the program at Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center. “It doesn’t matter where you are in life. There’s always something you can give back.”

Walsh said after attending a training program on service learning, she and her second grade class started to look at what kind of help her students could provide to Degage Ministries. After visiting the organization’s facilities, they realized that a large part of that population – women without children – needed additional help.

Soon, all second grade teachers and classes at the ECC joined in as students decided to focus on helping these women. Through bake sales and Mother’s Day flower sales, the students raised funds to provide Degage with stipends for the women.

In turn, the women volunteered at the school’s playground, lunchroom and classrooms, making it a nice lesson on how everyone has something of value to offer, Walsh said.

This summer, the children built and painted birdhouses with the help of volunteers form Home Depot, The LEAGUE Michigan/Heart of West Michigan United Way, KSSN, Degage ministries, Sentinel Pointe Retirement Community and students form the ECC Global Safari Plus summer school program.

Then, students from second grade and kindergarten took the bird houses to Sentinel Point Retirement home, where they also visited and presented some songs. In return, they were surprised with a limo ride to a park so they could play.

“It was such a combination of everybody giving what they could to help each other to get better and be a better community,” Walsh said. “It was beautiful.”

Throughout the year, Walsh added, students also learned some good skills as they measured, weighed and labeled food for a local pantry.  They learned about money and budgeting when they sold items. And when students planned for events they learned team work, and many more life skills.

“But the very best part of the service learning is hearing the children say that it makes them happy,” she added. “It is wonderful for them to be able to learn while they are helping to make a better and stronger community o live in.”

Agreeing was Bonnie Mulder, volunteer coordinator with Degage Ministries. 

“We love the fact that this partnership goes both ways. Char Walsh and the other staff members have been so welcoming to the women each time they volunteer, and the women love being able to choose what they will do at the school.  Their countenance is visibly changed as they talk about their experiences on the way back to Degage.  They excitedly tell each other about the appreciative teachers and the fun kids they worked with.  They are truly needed, and they know that. For some, it’s the only day of the week that they have something on their calendar.”

The project was recently recognized by the Detroit Pistons Game Challenge. Walsh’s students and their families received tickets to watch the Detroit Pistons at the Palace and received $500 to continue their service learning for their community.  The project was also been nominated for the League of Michigan Service Learning Project of the year.  

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