Last week, I explored different aspects of experiential teaching while teaching a Molloy College Summer Institute. One of the most powerful visits we made was to the Freeport INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network) which is a soup kitchen in Freeport, NY. In the basement of Christ Lutheran Church, people can find a warm cup of coffee, a nutritious meal, and gracious smiles.
It is hard to think that some of our neighbors in our community don't know where their next meal is coming from. Bob Wilson (one of the Co-Presidents of the Freeport INN) told us, "We would love to go out of business. That would mean that there wouldn't be any more hungry people on Long Island." Each weekday afternoon, their volunteers serve a healthy lunch to members of the local community. Patrons are also able to find seasonal clothing, books, and items that they may need.
The first thought that came to mind was, "How can we help?" The volunteers at the INN are there to make an impact just as most teachers chose their profession by hoping to make a change as well. For teachers of students over the age of 16, they may bring their class to volunteer for the day. Many schools have community service hours, and this could be a perfect match.
For teachers of elementary students, they can help by making contributions such as a canned goods drive, a monetary donation, and small gift cards. Even a $5 gift card to a local food or coffee store can really make someone's day!
Service learning lies in the positive psychology construct of hope. It allows us to restore hope in humanity by contributing to something that is larger that just ourselves. We want to teach our students to become informed citizens who are active participants in our community. According to Shane Lopez in Making Hope Happen, "But when life throws us a curve, when the going gets tough, optimists get stuck and frustrated. Hopeful people shine in negative situations. They are energized to act and they find meaning and dignity in moving ahead, whatever the challenge."
Upon reflection, I would like to add more social justice activities that directly affect the community around us. I think it would be eye opening to our students. It would definitely lend itself to some argumentative writing and identifying themes within reading. I would love to hear about any local efforts that you've contributed to or heard about!