A group of Wisconsin Dells middle school students recently received a crash course in giving back to their community.
About 140 sixth- and seventh-grade students from Spring Hill Middle School spent a couple of hours utilizing their creative talents and social skills in service to others on Oct. 25, as part of the school’s “National Unity Day-Unite Against Bullying” activities.
Performing for their older classmates at Wisconsin Dells High School, reading to their younger classmates at Spring Hill Elementary School, visiting residents at nearby Wisconsin Dells Health Services — formerly known as Golden Living — and engaging in several service-oriented creative group endeavors were among the day’s activities, all designed to teach the value of serving one’s community.
Or, as Spring Hill Counselor Jodi Nelson described it, “teaching kids they are part of a larger community than just their school environment.”
“They learned about the value of networking, communicating with others and getting out of their comfort zone,” Nelson said a few days after the first of what she hopes will be a yearly event at the school.
The community service learning experience is part of the school district’s “Academic and Career Planning” curriculum, according to Nelson.
Beginning this school year, the state’s Department of Public Instruction “is required to ensure that every school board is providing Academic & Career Planning services to pupils enrolled in grades 6—12 in every school district in the state,” she said. “The mission is to empower ALL students to travel the road to adulthood through education and training to careers.”
Traveling that road includes learning the value of service to others, and judging from the levels of energy and engagement displayed during their mid-morning singing and dancing performance in the Dells High School’s cafeteria, the students enjoyed themselves as they learned that value.
As a boom box blasted out a variety of familiar, “rocking” tunes, the students danced and sang as their high school counterparts looked on with enjoyment, with a few of the nearby high school teachers dancing along as well.
After a few lively renditions of songs including Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which inspired some spirited twisting by at least a few of the participants including seventh-grader Noah Bowser– a group of the high school’s chorus members turned the tables and served up a selection of choral tunes for their younger classmates.
“The choir came down to listen, they sang back to us and we all sang the last song together,” Nelson reported. “They learned that sometimes if you give a concert, you get a concert back – this is what community service is all about.”
The day’s service-oriented activities also included playing bingo with residents at the nearby Health Center and working together to weave a fence or paint a mural. The service-minded middle school students walked together to all of the activities.
The next day, the students spent time writing down their reactions to the experience, which included such profound observations as “it brings us closer together as a school,” Nelson said of one student’s first impressions.
“A lot of comments were about them working together and communicating together, especially with some kids they don’t do that with usually, plus that they got to help little kids and people at the nursing home,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of them had done something like this before.”
The students’ engagement during the day’s activities and their initial feedback afterwards strongly indicates more such activities are in store, Nelson said.
“We made a good connection, and hopefully we will continue to have some smaller activities,” she said.