Second and Third Graders Visit Cradles to Crayons
As part of their social justice curriculum, second and third graders spent a day volunteering at Cradles to Crayons in Brighton. The group was split in two: half went to clean shoes for homeless children, and the other half sorted toys and wrapped birthday presents for children in foster care or shelters. Adult volunteers sorted winter coats for children, and another group put together a week's worth of clothing for kids who don't have a change of clothes. In only two hours, the Atrium group helped 667 children.
Atrium's social justice curriculum is designed to highlight current events and situations affecting people near and far. The curriculum helps focus on ways to help other people in need. This year's focus has been on the need for clean water, with students learning about the water situation in Flint, Michigan, as well as the women across the world who spend their days carrying water from dangerous and remote locations. This fall, second and third graders hosted a Social Justice Bake Sale that raised money to send clean water to Flint, to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and to donate to the Georgie Bladiel Foundation that raises money for wells in areas lacking clean water.
"As part of the second grade study of human beings we learn that all human beings are equal and we all have the same needs, desires and dreams," said Jill Ferraresso, a second grade teacher. "We are all a human family and we should try to help one another when we can. The second and third graders at Atrium do this work because we want children to know that every child, and every person, deserves to have their needs met. When basic human needs are not met, it is very difficult for people to learn and grow, or to have quality of life."
Through these lessons, children come to realize the privileges they enjoy, including clean water and clothing, and the security of a safe place to live. Before the water study, students didn't know that clean water isn't accessible across the world. By donating to and volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, students learn the importance of anonymous service.
Jill explained, "It is important for Atrium children to understand that we should never do good works to be thanked. We should do them because we want to help and care about others. We want our children to do what is right because it is right, and not because it will make them look good to others. Our community is fortunate to have what we need, and with that privilege comes responsibility. How can we reach out to and care about others?"
"We want all of our children to be grateful for what they have, and to reach out to others when they can," she continued. "We find that over the course of their second grade school years children have a growing awareness of not wasting resources such as water or paper. They are more conscious about recycling and taking care of classroom materials. We also find that children begin to notice and call out stereotypes in books and movies, and to stand up for each other when a friend needs an ally. They notice homeless people in Harvard Square and Boston, and they become more acutely aware that even a small gesture, such as a smile or a hello, can help another person preserve his/her dignity. We talk a lot about what it means to treat others with humanity, and compassion. We hope they will always carry these lessons with them."