CREWS at ELMS Help Hopeprint by Warming Feet and Hearts
Even outfitted with a puffy down jacket and equipped with a heavy-duty snow blower, winters in Syracuse are brutal. Each year 1,000 refugees arrive in Central New York from countries like Bhutan and Republic of the Congo, where flip-flops are year-round footwear and snow is not in the forecast. The students at Expeditionary Learning Middle School are collecting boots for Hopeprint, a local non-profit organization that helps to facilitate these refugees’ transition to the United States. Service learning is a component to the multi-disciplinary learning experience at ELMS.
ELMS is a unique learning environment where students are divided into multi-aged, single-gender CREWS, with a faculty member as their leader.
“The CREW is centered around experiential learning, fitness, literacy, numeracy and service learning,” said Mary Beth Murray, CREW Coordinator and AVID teacher. “It is the foundation of how our whole building runs.”
Since 2008, service learning has been an integrated part of the learning philosophy. In the past, each CREW would select its own project and participate in service, but due to lack of funding, the faculty decided to collaborate on one area that would involve everyone participating in the same activity said Mark Loftus, CREW leader and resource teacher.
Choosing a project was not difficult for the ELMS faculty. “When we were discussing different areas, we decided refugees might be a good one,” said Lisa Lambert, CREW leader and art teacher. Staff met with Nicole Watts, President and Executive Director of Hopeprint, to discuss what the organization could use. She suggested a boot collection because most drives focus around other winter items, forgetting about footwear, added Lambert.
Teachers saw this project as more than a community service activity and incorporated it into their lesson plans. The president of Hopeprint visited classrooms and explained to students the plight of the refugees, their customs and lifestyle. In addition to gaining insight into other cultures and empathy for refugees, CREW members learned about advertising and business; they decorated collection boxes and solicited local businesses to donate to the drive. “CREWS brainstormed about how to get the message out about boots—it was important that the message was clear and concise,” Murray said.
Students creatively decorated their boxes with vibrant colors and images. Sixth grader Dylana Aldrich’s CREW decorated their box with construction paper cutouts of red, blue and yellow boots and a giant stop sign, while seventh grader Zarfara Davis’ group decorated their box with a quotation about kindness and hand-drawn pictures.
CREW members feel good about participating in service learning projects. Eighth grader Nadia Powell said that knowing the boots would help someone was her favorite part of the project. Davis added that the best part of the project is realizing that there is a need within the community for the items they are collecting.
The boxes, located at nearby locations including Green Hills, Arctic Island, DeWitt Community Library and Fayetteville YMCA, are already experiencing success. Just the other day, Murray went to get a cup of coffee at Broadway Café, a participating business. “I looked and sure enough there was a bag with probably five pairs of little kid boots and then next to it was one or two adult pair of boots,” she said.
Every pair of boots donated will help warm a pair of chilly feet; the drive will run until the end of February.
By: Kathryn Banzer