The lessons for Pleasant Lea Elementary School’s 535 students looked a little different than a typical school day Friday during the school’s second annual Serve Day.
Instead of reading, writing and arithmetic, students learned firsthand about needs within their community, ways they could contribute, and the joy and confidence that service brings.
During a day of making a difference, kindergarten through sixth-grade students partnered in nearly two dozen on- and off-campus activities.
Students boarded buses that morning and fanned out to a number of locations. Kindergartners and second-graders read books, played games, and made crafts with residents at various assisted-living locations.
First-graders also played games and did crafts, but with preschoolers at local childhood development centers.
Third- and fourth-graders helped with exterior cleanup at a number of locations. Fifth-graders donated their time at Harvesters, while sixth-graders spent worked at the Abundant Life Church and Lee’s Summit Social Services food pantries and other community-oriented projects.
“Students take pride in this day,” Pleasant Lea Principal Aaron Barnett said. “They bopped in here this morning on cloud nine, excited about where they were going to serve. We teach them that there’s no such thing as a ‘little’ good deed. They’re all good deeds and just one makes a difference — and they can make that difference.”
During the afternoon’s on-campus activities, students filled bags with trail mix for local police and firefighters, wrote notes for soldiers, made birthday cards for assisted-living residents, crafted dog toys for the Lee’s Summit Animal Shelter, and more.
The seeds for Serve Day, which began last year, were actually planted several years ago.
The Pleasant Lea community has participated in “The Leader in Me” program — a student-focused learning process based off Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” — for the last four years. Community service is a key element upon which the seven qualities are cultivated through this program.
Inspired by “The Leader in Me” principles, ELL teacher Rachel Kitley came up with the idea for Serve Day.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if all of our kids, every student, had an opportunity to serve our community in a real way?” Kitley said she remembered thinking. “The vision was, ‘How can we get kids to serve the community in a meaningful way and then be inspired to do it in the future?’”
In just two years, Serve Day has become an event that involves the entire school and even the wider community as parents, teachers, the PTA, local businesses, and others contribute time, donated goods, and find other ways to help ensure the day is a success.
“Through our ‘Leader in Me; program, we encourage students to become leaders in class, home, and community,” Barnett said. “They learn that leadership means giving back to the community through service. The great thing about working with elementary kids is that their hearts are so pure and they want to help. They just need a voice to help show them how to do it.”