Peabody’s service learning program is an integral part of the middle school curriculum that not only connects our students with nonprofits and other helpful organizations around the community, but also brings a sense of community to Peabody.
Service learning in 6th grade provides students with the opportunity to learn more about issues that impact their communities, both locally and globally. Some of these issues include hunger and poverty, homelessness, literacy, animals, the environment and children and seniors. Students learn the path to great citizenship can encompass many forms of service – direct, indirect, and advocacy. In addition to learning about the issues, students are able to venture out into the local community and put their citizenship skills to the test, volunteering their time and talent to the Loaves & Fishes food pantry and the Jefferson Madison Regional Library. In-school service opportunities consist of a buddy program, where middle school students are paired with a lower school class to build community and camaraderie.
In 7th grade, Peabody students participate in “Panther Corps” to focus on service learning. Building upon their guided experiences with service learning opportunities during the previous year, seventh graders each pursue an individual service project of their choice. Students identify and research areas of need in their community (for most, this is the greater Charlottesville area, or Peabody School itself), create a partnership with a local organization or individual, and commit to a specific project to be completed during the school year. Students promote their “Panther Corps” project through the school news and newsletter, and present their final projects at a community Share Fair each spring. In past years, projects have included direct service with organizations including Barrett Early Learning Center, Hope’s Legacy, International Neighbors, and Morningside Senior Living. Students also worked on in-school projects such as planning Field Day, organizing the Lost & Found, volunteering in Lower School classrooms, and creating a school mural. In addition, students have worked with ‘Hoo-thon at UVA, the Rainforest Trust in Warrenton, the Innocence Projects in Charlottesville, and the Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico for unique partnership opportunities.
As Peabody students become 8th graders, they take their service learning problem-solving skills in a new direction toward entrepreneurship for social good, using a program called mxINCedu. In mxINCedu, students are introduced to what it means to be an entrepreneur and the iterative process entrepreneurs use to create and build a product for the marketplace. Student teams outline a product idea from a planned starting point of reuse, recycle, or social impact. They work in teams to form a start-up business and then create a product, pitch ideas, launch their company to sell merchandise, and learn how to make a profit. All products are sold through an online marketplace and families and friends have the the opportunity to visit the e-store to see the teams’ products and make purchases. The program lessons focus heavily on economics as a critical strand of social/global studies learning standards. Volunteer mentors from the local community join the teams to provide coaching throughout the year.
Our hope is that students “find their passion” and leave Peabody with a sense of ownership in their school, local, and global communities to become lifelong philanthropists!