Park’s second graders are regular visitors to the nearby senior living community, Sophia Snow House in West Roxbury. Every week, one class spends an afternoon with the residents. This April, the second graders in Liz Miller’s class brought along ten visiting students and two teachers from our Chinese partner school* Hangzhou Greentown Yuhua Qinqin School.
Earlier in the day, the seventh and eighth grade students from China learned about this year-long community service project from the second graders and were thrilled to participate and experience what community service is like in America first hand. Ms. Miller’s second graders were very excited and looked forward to singing songs for and sharing their poems with the residents. They have been coming to visit the community every month and spending time with the residents reading, drawing, singing, and getting to know each other. The second graders explained how it was important to understand what the residents need rather than what they might want to give. After some initial uncertainty, the Qinqin students jumped into the activities with their younger guides and the time flew by as they spent an afternoon with the elderly residents at Sophia Snow House.
When the students from The Qinqin School were asked to reflect on their experience, they noted that their biggest takeaway was that “community service is more than giving things to others; giving could mean giving time to others.” They were surprised that they were capable of giving in such a way and were thrilled that they could make the residents happy by being present, asking questions, and having conversations.
*Park’s partnership and exchange program with The Qinqin School began in 2011 under Jerry Katz’s leadership. Since then, Qinqin students have visited Park each spring, staying with current students’ families. Ninth grade Mandarin students visited Qinqin during spring break in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Beginning next March, eighth grade Mandarin students will visit Qinqin and China.