Students in Bloomfield Hills Schools are frequently encouraged to be active, generous members of their community, giving to local charities, taking part in fundraising efforts to help others in need, and helping other students right in their own schools. Lone Pine Elementary School is thriving with student-driven ways to give back. From organized team efforts, like those of the Student Action Team and the LINKS crew, to organic, student-driven efforts to help the community, service-based projects are everywhere you look in the Lone Pine halls.
Right now, the Student Action Team at Lone Pine has taken up a new project to support the Foster Closet of Michigan organization. Students and their families are collecting new socks, underwear, toothbrushes, and hairbrushes. Deb Lockledge, a Lone Pine 2nd grade teacher who leads the Student Action Team, shares, “students on the Student Action Team work together to help facilitate and educate their classmates on various community service efforts that go on throughout the school year. We spend time talking about how lucky we are and that there are individuals in our community that need our help. The team is comprised of two to three students from each class, grades kindergarten through third grade. We run two sessions of the Action Team each year, September through December, and January through May. We meet every other Wednesday before school, from 8:00 - 9:00 am. Each session consists of eight meetings. At these meetings, we discuss different community service projects and develop different ways in which the students can be a part of the action. This might include making posters, helping to collect items, loading items that are being donated, and most importantly, taking the information they have learned at our meetings and sharing it with their classmates. They are modeling good citizenship.”
Another powerful way that students at Lone Pine learn to be empathetic is through LINKS, a research-based program which allows students with challenges to learn social skills in a natural setting from their peers. Randy Woodberg, Social Worker at Lone Pine Elementary School, explains LINKS: “Not only does the program benefit the students with disabilities, such as autism or other learning difficulties, but parents and teachers alike have reported great benefits to the peer buddies. Students learn how to relate to people with different needs and increase their understanding of individual differences. Most students who participate also become more empathetic human beings and are more accepting of themselves and their own weaknesses. Here at Lone Pine we have also had reports of some of our LINKS setting up times to connect with their peer buddies outside of the school day on their own. This is not something that is expected of them, but some have chosen to do it because of their personal sense of commitment, or they have simply made a positive connection. Another benefit of the program is that even students who don't participate directly see the LINKS being supportive to students who may be "different" in some way, so it teaches them to be more accepting of people's uniqueness and differences, as well.”
Woodberg explains, “LINKS is a peer to peer support program. As part of the LINKS program, the 3rd grade students spend at least one and sometimes two lunch periods per week with their peer buddy match. Depending upon the lunch schedules each year, the LINKS also get to go out to recess with their peer buddies either all or some of the times that they meet with them. This is the fifth year of the program running here at Lone Pine. Our entire group of all the LINKS also meet together with myself at lunch time once per month. This gives the LINKS a chance to share their successes or concerns, in order to help support them in what can sometimes be a challenging role that they are taking on. The monthly meetings also allows us the opportunity to make any adjustments in student alignment or schedules. There is a saying that goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." I feel that the LINKS program helps to feed our students these very important life skills for a lifetime, and allows them to become stronger, healthier and more compassionate human beings.”
3rd grade LINKS students share some thoughtful feedback on their experiences helping younger students in the building. Piper Smith explains, “I enjoy that I get to go to different classrooms, and communicate with younger people. Three of us have the same buddy, and we all have different days to eat lunch with our buddy.” Julia Finkelstein notes, “I like having a new friend and getting him a new friend. I learn from LINKS that everyone is different and has different talents. LINKS can help you.” Oren Korobkin says, “He likes to talk about stuff, and that’s what I really like about him. Sometimes we go to lunch with him, and sometimes we go outside for recess with him too.” Diya Chandra expresses, “What I enjoy about LINKS is I like communicating and being friends with a lot of people, and LINKS gives me a time to be friends with younger people.” And Shayna Kozinn shares, “My favorite part of being a LINKS is learning what other people are like, and what their differences are like. I learned that my LINK has a condition called autism, and sometimes he has trouble speaking.”
The International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Lone Pine also fosters a community mentality of giving back. Stephanie Olson, Lone Pine’s IB Coordinator, shares how 3rd graders take action, inspired by their IB learning. “A group of students in 3rd grade started a fundraiser called Comics, Collars and Cookies. They designed comic books, made dog collars and baked cookies, and they later added a "concert component" where a student played the piano during the art show. They then sold these items at the art show last year. Their original goal was to raise $30, and they ended up raising over $300! They donated their recess time, supplies, and came up with the ideas completely independently. It is my hope that we can reach out to the Humane Society and they can participate in a tour this year and bring the money they raised at the end of last year. The part that I really like is that it is all about students’ agency, and is completely designed by the students - it’s grassroot-taking action. Ms. Realy has supported them and has a very cool “Lightbulb Lab” where she invites students to inquire about things they are interested in. She put different images and articles that the kids were interested in, and they had different materials related to the concept. This year to include more student agency, she opened it up to the kids. They have “all about dogs” - books from the library about dogs, and there are hands-on elements like snuffle mats that can be used as blankets or to slow dogs down when they’re eating. When this display is done, the next student will bring in something they’re interested in, and what they’re an expert on. There are kids who are interested in mummies, so they want to now include information about mummies, which was influenced by the DIA field trip. The kids were inspired by Action Team, and talked about taking action, and what that means, and then they thought about how they can apply it to their learning.”
Lone Pine 3rd grader Preeyo Robella shares, “Last year when we started Comics, Collars and Cookies, we made collars out of a rope-type string. We rolled them together, and learned how to melt them together to make collars for bigger dogs. Some volunteers made cookies, and we sold them at the art show. We also did comics, so kids made comics, and then we raised money for the animal shelter. We try to make the animal shelter better. We’re going to donate some stuff and raise money for it too. We started the program earlier this year, and since we did it last year we know what to do now. It was a lot of fun making the collars. We made posters, and had a stand, and there was a room with framed pieces. We raised $300! It was a lot of fun doing it!”
3rd grade student Trevor Shapiro explains, “It started because Kai and I were going to do a lemonade stand, to donate stuff to the animal shelter, and then we changed it, to do Comics, Collars, Cookies, because they all started with a C. We thought that was cool! Kai’s mom was doing the art show, so we were able to do the sales at the art show. We’re excited to make the animals happy. And we’re excited to go to the animal shelter!” Kai Olson adds, “We keep adding more stuff that adds to the theme that we’re selling, like catnip and concerts. Brian played the piano.” Kai Schoelch explains another “C” element: “We made a cat car. The cats can shake it, they can play with it, and they can ride it. We made the cardboard parts out of paper tubes. We’re excited to give to the animal shelter.” Hannah Rodner explains, “About fifteen students got involved. We’re excited to finish working on the projects and help the animals!”
Another example of a student-driven project that began in a classroom is “Let’s Go Read.” Micah Eremie, a student in Ms. Realy’s 3rd grade class, was inspired to begin a group composed of about eight students in their classroom as well as other 3rd grade classes. Eremie explains, “I had an idea that we can make whatever we want, and the more we have, the more people we can help. So I started with me and my sister, and on October 20th I made my first book. I’m gonna sell the books. We have other friends from other classes so there are eight of us. We’re all making something to sell. My parents help a lot of other people who need money, so we’ll give the money to my parents. My mom will send the money somewhere.” Homam Masri adds, “Our group is called “Let’s Go Read” since it started off as comic books, but then we started drawing too. And more people joined to draw with us.”
In another 3rd grade classroom, kindness is spread when students touch a student-made poster that reminds them to be kind, before entering the room. Lila Ashmann, of Ms. Neun’s class, explains, “I was walking around at recess, and noticed that someone fell, but other kids weren’t talking to them to see if they were ok. So I made the poster to remind everyone to be kind, and to be happy. I had the idea to have people touch the poster before they go into class. Last year in 2nd grade I made a poster too. I wanted to make another one because this year, we’re the oldest kids in the school, and we should be showing kids how to act and how to be kind. We had an author come in, Maria Desmondi, and she said you can do a sprinkle worth of kindness, a marshmallow worth of kindness, or a rock worth of kindness. So I wrote that on the poster, and drew people on there being nice to each other, saying “are you ok?” because the other kid is saying “ouch.” We want people to do a rock worth of kindness.”
As Lockledge says, “Lone Pine students have always done a wonderful job of demonstrating how they are taking “ACTION” and helping out with some very worthwhile causes!” To the Lone Pine community of students who regularly take action to help your community, thank you for being student leaders, and giving back in this season and every season!