In the third trimester of eighth grade, students embark on projects that serve as a capstone to their St. John’s education. These student-driven service learning projects blend many of the best elements of a St John’s education – servant leadership, collaboration, meaningful and relevant learning, and a unique experience – to create a fitting end to the students’ last year with us. As part of their capstone project, eighth graders work in small groups to:
- Identify and research problems that exist in our community;
- Plan and evaluate the practicality of proposed projects;
- Complete the projects;
- Reflect on their experiences; and
- Present the results of their efforts to their peers.
The 58 students in the Class of 2018 concentrated on five key initiatives, all of which impact children and address basic needs. Two groups were focused on hunger/food insecurity, and three groups are focused on breaking the cycle of poverty, which includes those who are vulnerable to homelessness:
Hunger - Bonton Farms
One in every four children in North Texas is food insecure. Approximately 700,000 residents in Dallas County (250,000 kids) live in food deserts with little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In this service learning project, students become a part of the solution for hunger in Dallas, working at Bonton Farms to help grow a healthy community, provide jobs and ignite hope.
Environmental Science - White Rock Lake
Working with the City of Dallas and Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, team members are protectors of a very special habitat at White Rock Lake – a Blackland Prairie remnant. Students walk to the prairie each week to identify, photograph and record locations of the prairie flora and fauna. Invasive, exotic plant species are identified and marked for future elimination. Part of this project is to inform the community about the importance of the prairie in sustaining a diverse plant and animal community in the “heart” of Dallas, and to elicit their help in the protection process.
At-Risk Preschool Literacy - Educational First Steps
Unfortunately, many preschool-aged children who attend daycare centers in low-income neighborhoods have never had the advantage of a positive, engaging, nurturing early childhood education. The members of this literacy service learning group learn the importance of early childhood education working alongside the professionals at Educational First Steps and the teachers in East Dallas preschools creating a curriculum of fun activities using popular children’s literature and interacting directly with preschool children as they learn to read.
Elementary School Literacy - Reinhardt and Hexter
This project involves working with young elementary-aged students at DISD’s Reinhardt and Hexter elementary schools to enrich their literacy and other academic skills by reading, writing, creating, performing, problem-solving and collaborating. These activities cultivate relationships that affect the children far beyond the ABC's and 123's. Eighth graders create and implement weekly lesson plans around a driving question and develop a PBL (Project Based Learning) project.
Refugees - Gateway of Grace
The Refugee Service Learning group provides the opportunity to give action to victims of hunger, fear, injustice and oppression. Working with Gateway of Grace, a local agency that serves refugees from 13 countries and six religious backgrounds escaping from desperate situations with hopes for a future that includes adequate job opportunities, housing and food, students develop practical lessons to teach English to refugees and their preschool-aged children.
We offer special thanks to these additional partners who helped make this meaningful experience a success:
Episcopal Foundation of Dallas
National Association of Episcopal Schools
City of Dallas, Parks and Recreation
Leigh Ann Ellis - Regional Blackland Prairie Organization
Brett Johnson - City of Dallas Urban Biologist
Becky Rader - City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Board Member