St. George's Today
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Of course, community service goes without saying at a religiously-affiliated school. But shouldn't students build deep engagement and empathy with that experience? The third grade teaching team thought so and decided to give the Third Grade Day of Service an extreme make-over.
It began with these agile teachers "practicing what they teach" by employing Design Thinking themselves. At St. George's, students regularly use a "Design Thinking" process, borrowed from the STEM world, to solve problems. Based on beginning-of-the-year questionnaires, teachers learned how many students were animal lovers. This was a perfect tie-in to their first novel, Stone Fox. They used SGIS parent connections to build a relationship with Wilson Animal Rescue. Kids collected gently used towels for shelter kennels and spent a day making special-recipe dog biscuits (honing math and collaborative skills along the way) for families who foster the dogs.
An unexpected outcome? Wilson Animal Rescue has asked third graders to write dog bios for use in the adoption process. The teachers are working this unexpected persuasive writing opportunity into their plans because every single student wants to do one. "We're seeing greater student interest in wanting to write for an authentic audience," says Beth Landers, third grade teacher.
It all began with the St. George's traditional commitment to community service. Added to that were teachers who were highly connected to their students and not afraid to re-vision the approach. The result was deeper student engagement and empathy, as well as more enthusiastic third grade writers.