Students in grades K-5 engage in community service projects throughout their years in the lower school. An integral goal of community service in the lower school is to broaden students’ perspectives and understanding of the communities they live in and the world at large. Community service starts at school with students caring for and about the community in which they learn. Our students beautify the campus by planting and caring for flowers, making and hanging bird feeders, serving at and clearing dining hall tables, and doing playground sweeps that involve gathering and returning balls and equipment to storage bins. Reading Buddies provides opportunities for older students to be paired with younger ones to support and encourage them as they learn to read.
The lower school has held collection drives for various local and international causes. The Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society has been the recipient of dry and canned dog and cat food, blankets, and pet toys. Students have toured the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and donated canned goods. New and gently used books have been collected and delivered by students to the Reader-to-Reader program. Representatives from each of these non-profits have come to speak with students about their organizations. On the international level, our students participated in Read-a-thons to raise funds for organizations that provided aid to those in need after the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti. Shoes have been collected, boxed, and shipped to the Soles for Souls organization that dispenses them to people around the world.
Bement’s upper school students also participate in a wide range of community service experiences throughout their years at Bement. In any given term, our students work within the school community on campus projects or by volunteering their time at school events. For example, our ninth grade students assist with taking daily attendance, act as heads of lunch tables, and serve snack during recess. A signature event for our ninth grade class is a week-long service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic. The students spend their time living and working in an orphanage of fifty boys. In grades six through eight, our students work closely with their advisors to plan and coordinate on and off campus service opportunities. In the past, student groups have performed songs for residents at local nursing homes, organized school-wide food drives, or helped Bement’s Buildings and Grounds department keep the campus looking beautiful.
During the winter term, Bement’s upper school students may choose to participate in the community service program on Friday afternoons, in lieu of skiing or snowboarding. The faculty coordinators of this program, with input from the students themselves, schedule developmentally-appropriate activities on and off campus and incorporate a mix of hand-on projects, discussion, and time for reflection. Service opportunities have included visiting local animal shelters, volunteering at a food pantry, holding a bake sale to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, gathering and sorting donations for the ninth graders to take to the orphanage at the Dominican Republic, and preparing meals for Franklin Country Community Meals Program.