Escarpment View Public School has some ‘big ideas’ to teach students about equity and well-being this school year.
The Milton school has undertaken an initiative called Big Ideas, in which they target various themes around equity and well-being. In support of the theme of empathy, the school’s Me to We social justice club chose to perform an act of kindness in their community. To do this, students made Valentine’s Day cards and paper flowers to distribute at the Birkdale Place retirement home in Milton.
Several dozen Grade 6-8 students crafted 120 cards and flowers and recently visited Birkdale Place during the residents’ two lunch sittings. They personally handed each resident their gift and spent time getting to know them. Students customized the cards by including information about themselves such as their hobbies and activities they are involved in at school.
“Making these personal connections was important for our students as they felt they were doing more than just saying the typical ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ - it had the personal touch of caring,” says Bethea Jackson, teacher at Escarpment View PS. “This is part of our school plan for Equity and Well-Being. Having ideas that we celebrate together as a community every two months helps our students feel a sense of belonging to the school community. Our Big Ideas include We are One, We Persevere, We are Empathetic, We are Responsible and We are Proud.”
Jackson says an Escarpment View PS staff member has a parent at the retirement home and was able to help coordinate with the home for a visit by students.
The visit was a positive experience for students, she says.
“The residents were very excited to see our students and their reactions were very heartfelt when they were given the flowers and cards,” she says. “They had smiles on their faces and loved seeing the students in their environment. One resident said to me that it’s so nice to see the young children here as they are our future.”
Residents discussed with students their backgrounds, school aspirations, families and hobbies, explains Escarpment View PS teacher Elizabeth Barnett.
“Many of the residents were excited and appreciative to have the conversations. One resident kept coming over to our group to hang out, perform a magic trick and laugh with students,” she says. “The residents made us a really nice thank you card that made our students feel amazing.”
While an emotionally uplifting experience, the visit connected strongly with the curriculum, says Wendy Blackwell, teacher with Escarpment View PS. It’s part of the school’s larger Big Ideas initiative.
“We hope the students gained a different perspective, open understanding and empathy for others in their community,” Jackson says. “Giving back is such an important part of our Me to We club and we are so proud that our students wanted to participate in this act of kindness and empathy.”
Students say they had a great time visiting with residents and gleaning from them their wisdom and life experiences as they spent the afternoon together.
“I learned about people’s lives and how they grew up in different environments and communities than compared to us today,” says Wanya, a student in Grade 7. “When they were younger, they had it a little more difficult than we do.”
“I enjoyed meeting residents at Birkdale and I loved listening to their stories,” says Sfaa, a Grade 7 student. “We gave them cards and flowers and they were so grateful. One resident put his flower in his shirt and wore it all afternoon.”