To achieve a richer understanding of the world, one must participate in it. Park strives to provide multiple opportunities for community members to identify and address issues of public concern, and to find ways to get involved.
“It is the objective of the school, through its identity and history as a co-educational, pluralistic community, to prepare students to participate in the public life of a diverse and increasingly interconnected democratic society.”
–From the Objectives of The Park School
Park’s Civic Engagement and Service Learning program supports the development of students as they grow into active citizens. Through service experiences, students exercise their ability to advocate for communities and organizations and develop an understanding of ways to responsibly and respectfully contribute to the improvement of their communities. Many service projects connect directly to curriculum, enhancing the classroom experience.
As Park students and faculty members connect with communities beyond our campus, the school is committed to engaging in ways that promote mutual respect and understanding and personal growth for participants. The school seeks and develops relationships with community partners that acknowledge and promote their roles as educators of Park students. The school also recognizes the importance of preparation of students for community work and the value of reflection in developing students who will continue to be engaged in this work in the future.
With that in mind, the school emphasizes the following considerations:
- developing authentic reciprocal partnerships
- thoroughly preparing students for community work
- modeling respect for diversity
- promoting safety and well-being of students
- engaging in reflection and evaluation experiences
- providing opportunities for students to learn about the root causes of issues
The Work We Do
Park students are active in the community in addition to their classroom work. Park does not require community service hours, but many students seek ways to connect with and support the Baltimore community. The following are just a few examples of Park School programs that support the development of students into active citizens.
Connected to the Curriculum
Civic Engagement and Service Learning opportunities in the Lower School seek meaningful connections with curriculum. These experiences teach students about the value of service, link them to their communities and organizations working to advocate for those communities, and support a developing understanding of respect, responsibility, and social justice.
In the Middle School, Civic Engagement and Service Learning experiences support the growth of students into thoughtful citizens and advocates for change. Middle School students build their understanding of community organizations and ways that they can be involved through dedicated Civic Engagement days. In the yearlong Advoc8 program, eighth grade students carefully engage in work focused on addressing social issues and developing advocacy skills.
Civic Engagement and Service Learning opportunities in the Upper School seek to support students as they develop into active citizens. Upper school students participate in opportunities that arise out of classes that link academic content with service, service-oriented clubs, and dedicated Civic Engagement days when students volunteer with, and learn from, organizations that support the Baltimore community.
In recent years, students in this Upper School science elective studied cardiovascular disease and linked it to a project at a local homeless shelter, Weinberg Housing and Resource Center (WHRC). The students were tasked with using their understanding of the risk factors of the disease and preparing materials and activities for residents and guests of WHRC. The project culminated with a health fair at WHRC, providing an authentic audience and valuable feedback for their work, while supporting the work of the shelter and the well-being of its residents and guests. To prepare for their work and to better understand their audience, the course included volunteer opportunities at WHRC and Paul’s Place, a soup kitchen and outreach center in Southwest Baltimore.
Upper School drawing classes have developed a relationship with the League for People with Disabilities Medical Day program for clients with cognitive and physical disabilities. Students in this course visit the League several times throughout the semester. Drawing alongside League clients, this service project allows students to practice their craft while also providing a valuable art activity for the League program.
Students in the Park Service Club engage in activities in the school community and beyond. Club members have volunteered and made meals for local soup kitchens, worked at community gardens, and supported the Viva House food drive. Members recently worked with the local International Rescue Committee (IRC), holding a winter clothing drive, to support the IRC’s work resettling refugees in Baltimore. Students have made efforts to make connections to organizations internationally with a focus on supporting refugees.
All eighth grade students take part in the Advoc8 program, a multi-disciplinary project designed for students to use skills and knowledge developed during Middle School in order to take on roles as advocates for change. During Advoc8, students choose a topic about which they are passionate and, with faculty and peer collaboration, create an individual or group project, which culminates in the creation of authentic, innovative, solution-oriented advocacy.
Neighborhood Revitalization Club
The Neighborhood Revitalization Club (NRC) is an Upper School club that was founded with a mission to support the development of healthy communities in Baltimore. With a focus on the creation of green spaces, students volunteer with the Community Lot Team of Civic Works, a community service organization, as well as a coalition of nonprofits and community members to address urban blight.
Click here to read more about the NRC and previous community projects in Baltimore.
The Lower School has been involved for over 20 years supporting Viva House, a Mount Street soup kitchen and food pantry, through food donations.
The fourth grade takes responsibility for coordinating this effort, soliciting food, and packing bags. Upper and Middle School advisories often hold their own collection drives, and parent volunteers pitch in by driving the food bags to Viva House.
The Parents’ Association has hosted service opportunities for parents and families helping to build a culture of service in our community and reinforcing the value of this work. Through these events, families learn more about and contribute to the work of local organizations. Recent events have included a Family Day of Service at Real Food Farm in Baltimore City’s Clifton Park and a service event in which parents supported the work of Art with a Heart, a Baltimore nonprofit focused on bringing art instruction to underserved groups.
More Opportunities for Families
|AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE||Donate clothing/household items to their free store; other volunteer opportunities available: https://www.rescue.org/us-program/us-baltimore-md/current-volunteer-opportunities|
|ART WITH A HEART||Enhances the lives of people in need through visual arts classes; more information here: https://www.artwithaheart.net/support.html|
|COMMUNITY LOT TEAM||Help with the transformation of vacant lots to community gardens: https://www.facebook.com/civicworks?fref=ts|
|MARYLAND FOOD BANK||Packing food and health kits, ages 12 and up; additional work in Community Kitchen for ages 18 and up; more information and schedule available here: https://www.mdfoodbank.org/volunteer/|
|PAUL’S PLACE||Various volunteer opportunities available for ages 6 and up; information available here: https://paulsplaceoutreach.org/get-involved/volunteer/|
|REAL FOOD FARM||Various open volunteer days, available here: https://www.realfoodfarm.org/get-involved/volunteer/|
|WEINBERG HOUSING AND RESOURCE CENTER (WHRC)||Travel-size toiletries needed; volunteer weekdays (14+ only) to help with breakfast or dinner service. All opportunities listed here: https://www.catholiccharities-md.org/weinberg-housing-resource-center|
|YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SOCIETY (YES)||Collections/sorting – learn more here: https://www.facebook.com/YouthEmpoweredSocietyyesDropInCenter|
|VIVA HOUSE||Monthly food bag collections for Southwest Baltimore soup kitchen and food pantry; 2 parent drivers needed each month|
For more information about any of Park’s programs, contact Priscilla Morales, Associate Head of School, firstname.lastname@example.org.