This article originally appeared in the winter 2012 Harker Quarterly.
Harker’s youngest students are using the holiday season to learn about being thankful, giving back to their local communities, and the joy that comes from helping those less fortunate.
Kicking off the first of their community service projects in late October, the kindergarten students helped care for their lower school campus by picking fallen pomegranates from the school grounds to prevent the fruit from becoming an eyesore and hazard. This campus beautification project began in 2009 and is part of the youngsters’ overall service projects; they also participate in tree planting each year.
The annual kindergarten tree planting at the Bucknall campus is a beloved tradition that began on the Saratoga campus. According to Sarah Leonard, primary division head, tree planting gives the children the opportunity to leave kindergarten with something that “serves as a living memory of their first year at Harker.”
Additionally, every winter, the lower school sponsors a canned food and toy drive, in which kindergartners take part. The importance of giving back and feeding the hungry is a lesson that many kindergarten teachers further tied into curriculum surrounding the holiday season.
The toy drive affords kindergartners the chance to learn, early on, the value of helping to get presents under the trees of many families who would not have otherwise been able to afford them.
In fact, last year’s drive resulted in hundreds of toys being delivered to Sacred Heart Community Services in San Jose. Including Harker’s donation, more than 16,000 toys were donated, then set up and organized like a toy store for parents of children in need to choose from, resulting in a very merry Christmas day.
In November, kindergarten teacher Katherine Chi hosted a Thanksgiving feast with students and their families during her afternoon homeroom period. Held on Nov. 16, families each brought a favorite dish to share with the class, even including a bowl of macaroni and cheese for youngsters with hard-to-please palettes!
For those who wanted more traditional holiday fixings, there were also plenty of mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes and roasted turkey to choose from. And, to the delight of students, yummy desserts, including homemade pumpkin cookies, were served as well.
However, it wasn’t dessert that made kindergarten student Lindsey Tuckey’s mouth water. The five-year-old said what she is really thankful for is “the healthy stuff.” When asked to elaborate she noted she is especially grateful for having so much food to eat, particularly “broccoli and celery.”
Sitting next to her at a table set with colorful paper plates with turkeys on them was her father, Jeff Tuckey. He said he enjoyed being a part of the in-class celebration, sitting down with the youngsters as they enjoyed their mock Thanksgiving meal.
But it wasn’t all about the food. In addition to enjoying the sumptuous feast, Chi also had her class of 22 students take time out to discuss what they are thankful for. Previously, as part of their language arts curriculum, the kindergartners had created a journal about non-material things they are grateful for. Answers ranged from having clothes to wear and food to eat, to spending time with their family and pets.
From enjoying class holiday-themed celebrations to participating in community service projects and toy and canned food drives, kindergartners used the holiday season to its fullest – by uniting as a class, as well as helping to make the world a better place.