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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Service-learning at Seaton Elementary: Grooming a garden for the school community

Written by Kara Dunford
Communications Intern

How do you define community?

What are the differences between superheroes in books and movies and everyday heroes?

As the sun shines and temperatures rise, DC SCORES students are tackling these very questions.

This spring, DC SCORES teams are learning that you don’t have to be Superman rescuing a man trapped in a Metropolis mine to be a hero. Armed with an awareness of your community and its strengths and weaknesses, you too can be an agent of good.

On March 10, spring programming kicked off at 47 public and public charter elementary and middle schools across the city. Through a mixture of soccer and service-learning, the spring curriculum provides students the opportunity to develop both their physical fitness and their sense of community while strengthening bonds between teammates.

Teams at each school brainstorm and implement a service-learning project over the course of the season. Past projects have included a race to raise money for an animal shelter, a technology lesson for senior citizens, a depression awareness campaign, and the creation of a school recycling program, to name just a few.

During my first visit to Seaton Elementary School in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC, the Seaton Stingers told me a bit about how they selected their service-learning project.

As they took a look around their school and neighborhood community, two big problems stood out.

The first: a garden in disarray after the harsh winter.

Last spring, the Stingers created a garden space to grow fruits and vegetables for the school and neighborhood. But during the summer months and then into the fall and winter, the unattended garden was subject to destruction. A lack of respect for the space combined with the months of snow and cold temperatures left the garden in desperate need of some sprucing up.

Just steps away from the garden lies the second problem. Large holes dot the school’s soccer field, posing an injury risk for its young players.

After some thinking, the team of third through fifth graders decided they would sell the fruits and vegetables from their garden to raise the money needed to give the field the care it needs.

Fifth grader Guadalupe S. said she is excited to begin work on the project and hopes it will leave her with a sense of accomplishment.

“I think I will feel happy because I have helped the garden and because I’ve made it a better place,” she said. Airin C., another fifth grade student, said he is most looking forward to planting the fruits and vegetables.

“It’s fun because you get experience with the earth and with nature,” he said.

It won’t be easy, but the Stingers -- in just their second full year of programming -- have proved they are up to a challenge that will require leadership, teamwork, and commitment, DC SCORES’ core principles. This past December, Seaton was crowned the champion at the Westside Poetry Slam!.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Julian C., a fifth-grader. “We’re going to make the garden look more healthy.”

Check out the video above and HERE to see more from the Seaton Stingers. Be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates from a season of soccer and service-learning.

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