Two weeks ago at Thornton Creek Elementary School, children asked City Year corps members, “Are you a fire fighter?” and “What’s with all the red people?” Thornton Creek Elementary School is an alternative elementary school that is based on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB) model. The school also follows what they call the 10 Design Principles, one of which is Service and Compassion – how fitting! City Year Seattle and Starbucks volunteers devoted themselves to service at the school to create a more welcoming environment for all the students.
In Seattle Public Schools there are three gardeners responsible for 20 schools each. Needless to say, help is always appreciated. City Year beautified the exterior of the school, painted one of the new portables, and gave classroom presentations about what City Year does and the importance of service.
Corps members took on the arduous task of removing weeds and other invasive plants. In one section of the lawn, corps members removed a thick monster plant that stood three feet tall, six feet wide and was covered in thorns. Nevertheless, corps members armed with their plant cutters and tenacious attitude were able to take down all the weeds in the lawn and the school’s community gardens. Thornton Creek students are now able to plant native species in the gardens for science class.
After the removal was complete, corps members mulched the entire area and made sure the front lawn looked neat and tidy. As this was going on, other corps members were painting the school portable, which will become a classroom in the future.
Painting the portable was a fun experience. Seven corps members turned the portable from a drab place to a bright and wonderful environment for learning. It took about an hour to prep the room for painting as corps members laid out tarp, taped off outlets and switches and covered the dry erase board before beginning the revitalization process.
With rollers and brushes in hand, everyone dove in. After three hours, two coats of paint and touch up work, corps members has successfully transformed the portable. Principal John Minor said,
“I didn’t realize how dark this room was until after you painted it; it looks wonderful!”
He was so impressed with all the work going on that he ordered pizza for all the corps members and Starbucks volunteers, which was a wonderful surprise after a few hard hours of service.
Three corps members had the opportunity to visit fifth grade classes to talk about the role of service in our communities and lives. Because of the emphasis of service in Thornton Creek’s learning model, our insight did not seem novel to these bright-eyed learners.
Once a month, the Thornton Creek fifth graders travel to the Northwest Food Bank to help package and distribute food to those in need. We asked the students to give us some examples of service they do outside of school and the response was amazing. The students were so eager to share their insight on service, we didn’t have time to hear from them all.
“I volunteer at the animal shelter with my parents once a week.”
“I help out my older neighbor. I grab his mail and take out his trash when he needs it.”
Their earnest desire to contribute was incredibly inspiring. We left feeling reaffirmed in our work and could do nothing else but talk about the level of engagement and respect we received. Then we laced up our boots and walked back out to get our hands in the dirt.
Text by Kendall Morgan City Year Seattle/King County corps members
Photos by Adam Nance, City Year Seattle/King County Development Director