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Monday, May 12, 2014

Service-learning 2014: Brightwood students take ownership of their garden

Written by Kara Dunford
Communications Intern

Parents, teachers, and students flocked to Brightwood Education Campus on a recent afternoon. It wasn't a school day, nor was there a sporting event going on. In fact, it was Saturday, and members of the community had gathered to help the Panthers put their idea for a service-learning project into action.

After an afternoon of exploration, armed with notebooks and pencils, the students had expressed an interest in beautifying their school, to allow the outdoor aesthetics to match the vibrant school community found inside.

"We had to come together as a team and come up with what we wanted to do," Rachel Rosenberg, a writing coach and first grade teacher at the school, said. "When we thought about what would really be best for our community, that's when we decided on making Brightwood beautiful."

Now, it was time to trade in their pencils for shovels and get to work.

"A lot of us came with our parents. We all helped and we worked together," fourth grader Kelly C. said. "My favorite part was getting together as a team and working."

It was a day filled with hard work.

"We pulled out all the weeds. Then we planted the flowers, and then we put down the mulch," fifth grader Arif M. explained.

But the hard work paid off, resulting in a colorful new welcome to the school.

"Now, it looks beautiful. That's my favorite part," Arif said.

On my recent visit with the team, it was clear the Panthers are invested in their project. As we walked around the newly planted garden, smiles filled with pride appeared on the students' faces. Armed once again with notebooks and pencils, the team was now faced with the task of maintaining their new contribution to the school.

It required the students to take ownership, but the Panthers were up for the challenge.

When the coaches asked students to volunteer to water the plants at recess, hands quickly shot up around the classroom, while other students pledged to pick up trash.

The team will be educating members of the community on the importance of the garden, urging their fellow students to help keep Brightwood beautiful.

Even after the excitement of planting was finished, the Brightwood team displayed exceptional commitment to their project. It was amazing to see a group of elementary school students make an investment in their school and follow through on each step in the process to ensure the project's success.

In addition to commitment, another hallmark of DC SCORES, teamwork, has been on display at Brightwood.

"My favorite part is we're all together as a group. We got our favorite ideas and we worked together as a team to brighten our school," Kelly said.

Watch the video above (and here) to hear more from the Panthers. Follow along this spring as we visit schools across the city working on service-learning projects using the hashtag #servicelearning14.

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