Service Learning Project in Fourth Grade Focuses on Refugees in Richmond

For many years the fourth grade curriculum at Collegiate has included a sizeable unit on immigration in America, primarily set in historical context of the turn of the 19th Century. This year we expanded that curriculum to include a service-learning project connecting this study with both an academic look at more recent immigration to Richmond and a service-based partnership with Ridge Elementary looking at the needs of their refugee community. 
The students began this project with a speaker series of recent immigrant and refugees, primarily connected to the Collegiate community (graduates, parents, grandparents, teachers etc.). The fourth grade students developed a set of questions for their guest speakers designed to foster empathy of the experience of being a new arrival in the United States and to understand the needs of recent refugees, especially those who arrive with limited resources. The students then interviewed staff members form our community partner at the Tuckahoe YMCA and refugee students and parents from Ridge Elementary School (less than three miles from Collegiate). The fourth grade students identified warm clothes as a need and organized a coat and hat drive. The fourth grade students then organized a cultural and learning exchange where the Bhuantese students from Nepal shared their culture and experiences with the Collegiate students (songs, stories etc.) and the Collegiate students asked them to take the coats and hats back to their school as an appreciation for them coming to Collegiate as ‘teachers.’ This exchange will continue into the spring with a further cultural exchange and English language book drive. The service-learning projects are designed and organized by the Collegiate fourth graders based on their research into the community needs.

This project was recently featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.