Students learn to help others

Daniel Echeverry, 7, sits by the school’s project at Northwood Academy Charter School. The project show students’ interaction with cleaning the environment and putting together art with recycled material, Friday, May 4, 2012, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

At the Northwood Academy Charter School, students and teachers take service learning pretty seriously.

The school educates 780 kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. The main campus, at 4621 Castor Ave., is home to kindergarten through fourth grade. Fifth- through eighth-graders attend classes at the former St. Joachim School.

Last week, they all came together at the Castor Avenue location to show off their service-learning projects.

“Service learning has evolved for us,” explained CEO Amy Hollister. “We’ve had a shift. We’ve always had a charitable spirit, but there wasn’t this helping people component.”

The students are grateful for the opportunity to attend a school that is growing. While the enrollment will stay the same, an addition is being built to house a gym, cafeteria and classrooms for kindergartners through third-graders. Fourth- through eighth-graders will learn in the existing building. The project should be completed by January 2013.

In the past, students simply raised money for their projects. Now they are much more intimately involved in the project details.

“It’s not just a fund-raiser. I think they get a sense of community,” said principal Patricia Mychack.

The students spend much of the school year talking about and developing their projects. The brainstorming begins each October.

Teacher Amy Kelly, coordinator of the service-learning program, said the school’s commitment began one year with a benefit for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. The lemonade kept selling out, and organizers had to repeatedly go back to stores to buy more.

Service learning is now in the school’s mission statement. The projects are displayed at a fair, with the children explaining them to visitors.

“This is student-run,” Kelly said.

Kindergarten students created a flower pot and steppingstones that can be used as a path to the school addition.

ldquo;We made steppingstones to make our school look pretty,” said Ella Eaton.

First-graders focused on recycling. They used recycling materials to build a bulldog (the school mascot) and “Recycle Dog,” made of cans, bottles and other items.

Second-graders read books to the residents of the Statesman Woods and Lafayette-Redeemer retirement communities.

Third-graders went all out. Some held a Dance-A-Thon that raised $489 for the Quilts for Kids childhood-cancer charity.

Other third-graders asked for donations of loose change as part of their “Pennies for Patients” campaign. In the end, they collected a whopping $2,235.44 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Fourth-graders had several projects. Some held a snack and drink sale to raise money to deliver quilts, gift cards, flowers, greeting cards, slippers, toothpaste, bingo games and blankets to patients at the nearby Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They also sang Lean on Me and We Are the World to the patients.

Other fourth-graders offered a laptop presentation to show how they collected more than 30 pounds of soda-can tabs for donation to the Ronald McDonald House. They also made fleece hats for patients and held a Math-A-Thon and raised $615 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Others sold candy and raised $300 for people who have cancer.

Fifth-graders conducted a few different projects. Some collected towels, blankets, collars, leashes and cleaning supplies for the no-kill Street Tails Animal Rescue in Northern Liberties. They are promoting Super Adoption Day, scheduled for June 16 from noon to 4 p.m., at the Piazza at Schmidt’s.

Other fifth-graders traveled to the Mother Goose & Friends Academy day-care center in Rhawnhurst to read books to the youngsters and help them with math skills.

The fifth-graders also helped second-graders at their own school develop their reading, writing and math skills.

“We wanted to be good role models for when they get older,” said fifth-grader Dayanie Favors.

Sixth-graders had a couple of themes. Some designed coloring and activity books and performed skits to bring awareness to the issue of missing and exploited children.

Mark Jones, Alec Borschell and Ceone Williams represented a sixth-grade class that had a recycling message. They used recycling materials to create puppets, a wishing well and a sink, and also designed a big display board with information and pictures. A survey of staff members indicated that, while most recycle at home, the majority do not recycle at school. The materials were collected around the perimeter of the school.

“We found a lot of water and soda bottles, lighters and trash around the school,” Mark said. “Everybody needs to recycle.”

Seventh-graders chose animal cruelty as their issue. They worked with first-graders to make catnip toys to donate to the Pennsylvania SPCA.

Eighth-graders missed the fair because they were on a class trip to Hersheypark. They held a bake sale to make care packages for the homeless. The packages included tissues, water, lotion, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and crackers. ••