Service Learning is about asking essential questions like "How can I be a changemaker?", "What are the needs, injustices, and inequities in our community?", and "What matters to me?". When students begin to explore the 'why' they acquire a stronger understanding of the importance of building habits of service. They evolve from questions to firm statements, such as, "I have a responsibility to know about, and address community issues."
Character defining moments are created at Potomac. Our aim is for students to recognize they have the power to make a difference, to show their civic responsibility, and to embody a generosity of spirit.
Service learning is an essential part of the Potomac School experience and integrated into the K-12 curriculum. Through grade-level initiatives, classroom projects and leadership opportunities, students in each division expand their understanding of issues in our community and take action to support people in need, steward our natural world, and work towards social change. In our schoolwide program, Service Learning helps students discover ways to use their time, talents, and interests to create positive outcomes.
What Makes Service Learning at Potomac Distinct?
Potomac School’s Service Learning program
- Digs into the 'why' behind the lack of equitable distribution of resources within communities.
- Exemplifies a K-12 approach by creating experiences for students across all grade levels and providing multiple touch points to our community partners over time, helping students develop a deeper understanding of needs in our community.
- Is integrated into the classroom experience and the Advisory program as well as interconnected with our school’s focus on developing life skills, including cultural competence, financial literacy, and real world problem solving.
- Supports Potomac’s commitment to character formation and our school’s mission to prepare students to live lives of purpose, achievement, and generosity of spirit.
Empowering Summer Learning among Local Youth
Over the last two months of school, the US Service Learning Club engaged in a project to create 120 summer learning kits for rising first through fifth grade students served by Potomac's community partner, Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC). Club leaders conceived the idea for the service project in response to the learning loss experienced by AHC youth during the pandemic. To begin, club leaders brainstormed with education staff member Laney Parrott from AHC to plan the kit contents collaboratively. They partnered with Lower School learning specialists to identify developmentally appropriate enrichment games. Each kit includes math and reading games, a summer reading bookmark, and an "inspirational message" coloring page with a handwritten note from a club member. Laney visited Potomac to meet student leaders and pick up the kits that will be used during summer camp and later gifted to provide at-home learning resources. Thank you to US students for helping empower summer learning among local youth!
How does service Learning reach every student at Potomac?
All Potomac students, from Kindergarten to grade 12, participate in foundational service learning experiences connected to four community needs: hunger, homelessness, and poverty; literacy; the elderly; and the environment. Grade-level initiatives in Kindergarten to grade 6 are led in the classroom and foundational initiatives in grades 7-12 are led in Advisory groups. Each grade-level experience connects our students with local community partners and is intended to provide a foundation for service for every student at Potomac.
GRADE 7 SERVES ROCK CREEK CONSERVANCY
Grade 7 students participated in their first Community Action Day. This environmentally-focused event served Potomac's community partner Rock Creek Conservancy. Advisory groups volunteered in two sections of Rock Creek Park, gathering data and collecting trash to care for the Rock Creek watershed. After enjoying a picnic lunch in the park, the seventh graders returned to campus and worked in advisory groups using their data to identify ways to address environmental challenges and responsibly care for Potomac's campus.
All second grade students wrote letters to over 70 older adults living at Chesterbrook Residences, as part of a grade-level service learning project connected to their writer's workshop. Upper School Service Learning Club members also wrote letters, ensuring that all 95 residents at Chesterbrook received personalized greetings.
Members of sixth grade Students for Environmental and Service Learning Action (SESLA) created 24 flower vase donations, reusing flowers from Potomac's May Day tradition and recycled vases donated by Potomac families, to spread joy among older adults living at Chesterbrook Residences.
JOYFUL FOOD MARKET
Each division hosts a Joyful Food Market to learn about food insecurity and food equity and to collect food donations for Potomac’s community partners. The Martha’s Table Joyful Food Markets provided inspiration through a program begun by our partner in 2016 to provide food access to fresh foods to neighbors in Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, DC who live in a food desert. Responding to the impact of the pandemic, the food collections continued Potomac’s 33+ year Sandwich Day tradition benefitting Martha’s Table and Cornerstones.
Third Grade Students Share a Love of Reading at Falls Church McLean Children’s Center
During Library class, the LS students learned about children attending preschool at FCMCC and the importance of access to books at school and at home to help build early reading skills. Each third grade class received a FCMCC buddy class and Potomac students were invited to select a gift book for a young child in that class to build the preschooler's home library.
supportING Ukrainians in need
Gathering in the Spangler Center In April, members of the Potomac community worked together to support Ukrainians in need. The meal-packing event, attended by more than 100 people, was spearheaded by the Parent Association Service Learning Committee and Upper School students in Potomac’s Global Perspectives and Citizenship (GPAC) program who were studying food insecurity around the world. With the events in Ukraine top of mind, the parents and students took action to organize the meaningful service initiative in partnership with The Outreach Program, a nonprofit organization.
Convey of Home, an international relief agency, picked up the more than 21,000 meals that were assembled at the event and delivered them to displaced Ukrainian families.
VALENTINES FROM THE HEART
Potomac families created more than 450 valentines to brighten the spirits of older adults served by our community partners Chesterbrook Residences, Culpepper Gardens, and The Washington Home Center. An additional thanks to student leaders in our MS and US service learning clubs for making more than 130 valentines for staff members at these organizations, to thank them for their caregiving throughout the pandemic. We are grateful to Parent Association Service Learning Committee (PASLC) leaders for organizing this family service opportunity.