Seventh Grade: Tackling Food Insecurity
Seventh graders heard from a variety of field experts who illuminated different aspects of the problem: Catherine Pedke from Lovin' Spoonfuls, a food rescue organization; Vi-Anne Brown, Fay’s Director of Counseling Services, who discussed the connection between nutrition and mental health; Professor Stoney Jackson of Western New England University, who is creating an app to support food pantries; and Raya Jackson from About Fresh, a food pop up truck that brings fresh food to underserved urban neighborhoods.
Seventh graders also spent two days supporting the local harvest at Natick Organic Farm and Chestnut Hill Farm and an afternoon at a local grocery store, where they worked in small groups to stretch a family’s food budget to purchase a week’s worth of groceries.
The week concluded with a design challenge: to identify and propose a solution related to food insecurity or waste. Students presented their ideas in a gallery walk through the Mars Room, where project concepts ranged from making more fresh food available at urban convenience stores, to in-home composting solutions, and subsidizing transportation to make grocery stores more accessible.
Eighth Grade: Telling Our Stories
The theme for the eighth grade service learning trip to New York City was “Telling Our Stories: Immigration, the Melting Pot, and Urban Development.” Eighth graders were deployed each day to worksites across the city, including a day care center for underserved families, food pantries, community gardens, and soup kitchens.
Evening activities reinforced the week’s theme. Students visited the Tenement Museum to hear the perspectives of immigrants from the 19th and 20th centuries. Students visited the New York Historical Society, where they learned how immigrants helped shape the city; they also visited and reflected on “The Immigrants” sculpture in Battery Park, which depicts the struggle of the immigrant experience.
For many students, the most powerful experience of the New York City service trip is the evening spent serving dinner to low-income and homeless individuals at the YSOP headquarters. “As they interacted with people facing adverse situations, our students were able to see their experiences through the lens of the history of immigration,” says Service Learning Coordinator Craig Ferraro. Students spent their final morning in New York touring Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Both the seventh and eighth grade students wrote journal entries each day during their service weeks to reflect on their work and consider its challenges and rewards. “The students’ reflections, which included sketches and answers to specific questions, were a big part of each trip,” notes Craig. “The journals provided an opportunity for the students to make sense of the experience and their contribution.”