Form 3 Creates Literacy Kits for Service Learning - Kingswood Oxford

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April 06, 2023

Form 3 Creates Literacy Kits for Service Learning

One of the charges this year for Upper School Spanish teacher and Service Learning Coordinator Kathleen McLean was to bolster the school’s commitment to partnering with our local community, evolving our community service program, and forging mutually beneficial partnerships. 


“Community service can sometimes benefit the volunteer more than the non-profit itself,” McLean said. “We are hoping to create relationships that are more sensitive to the needs and realities of the non-profits with which we are working.”


The idea is to transform our community service into service learning, which involves an academic component and moments of reflection. In the future, our students might establish their pilot programs with objectives and look toward solving a societal problem. McLean noted that working in a soup kitchen develops a sense of compassion and an awareness of community needs, but she is interested in sustaining a service mindset. “We want to create ethical problem solvers for life, which is one of the goals of service learning,” she said.Students at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford work on service learning projects for the United Way


Service learning is a natural fit for McLean, who has worked for several non-profit organizations over the years, including Networking Incorporated in Andover, which serves people with developmental disabilities, Open Heath, which provides an array of services for homeless men, and Literacy Volunteers in New Britain.

Students at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford work on service learning projects for the United Way

Looking at this year as a building year, McLean connected with United Way, an umbrella organization with many outreach programs, which MClean feels was accessible and opens the doors to other projects for our students to become involved with. Form 3 Dean Tricia Watson adopted the United Way Literacy Kit project concept as a Form 3 activity with McClean, helping organize the project closely with her. Working in their advisee groups, the students in Form 3 create kits with paper bags, plates, yarn, and stickers for low-income children who read below grade level. The intention is for the kits to enrich the child’s reading experience. Once the kits are compiled, they will be returned to United Way for distribution.


Another program McLean plans to involve our students in through the United Way is Reading Buddies. IStudents at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford work on service learning projects for the United Wayn this national organization, students are paired on Zoom with second to fifth-graders below reading level. This is a seven-week commitment for one hour a week; once the cycle ends, the student can renew their outreach. We hope that our students become true mentors to their reading buddies, and McLean already has seven to eight Wyverns interested in joining.


McLean aims to have five community partnerships by year’s end and awaken within our students the appreciation of many benefits and privileges that have been bestowed upon them, from having a small library of books at home when they were youngsters to not going to bed on an empty stomach. Several students volunteered in the upcoming Walk Against Hunger for Connecticut Food Share on May 20. 


For summer opportunities, McLean is partnering with Hands on Hartford, serving Hartford’s most economically challenged residents in food, housing, and health. Students can serve in their “Cafe 55,” an on-site, non-profit restaurant where folks can eat a great meal for $2.00, pay full price if they can, or eat for free and meet with a social worker and be connected to services at the same time. Hands-on Hartford also operates a food pantry and residential properties for low-income families, among other programs and services. Other partnerships include Boots on the Grounds part of the United Way and 2-1-1.


For a school whose core value is “care beyond self,” McLean said the students have stepped up immediately. “The students have such good hearts,” she said. “When they hear about things like this, they just want to do it. It’s really nice to see how caring some of the students are and how they really want to be involved and take ‘caring beyond self’ seriously.”


Upon graduation, KO students are required to fulfill the following Community Service/Service Learning hours (fluctuation in hours per grade is due to the Covid-19 disruption)

Class of 2023 – 30 hours 

Class of 2024 – 45 

Class of 2025 – 60

Class of 2026 – 60

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