Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. – John Dewey
What are the Ambassadors?
Fourth grade students at River Birch Elementary have a special opportunity to take on a mantle of responsibility usually carried by teachers and parents. The teachers and administrators have utilized some of their professional development training from C.L.A.S.S. (http://www.joyofclass.org/) and established a group of students designated as Ambassadors. Mrs. DeHart and Mr. Miller have worked tirelessly to make the program as successful as possible. Historically at River Birch, the Ambassadors have served as greeters at various school events, tour guides in the first days of school and on back to school nights, and helpers in other various formats.
Any fourth grade student with a desire to serve may apply to become an Ambassador. The application process, however, is not dissimilar to that of a real-life, grown-up job application. Student must fill out a formal application, get references, and have an actual face-to-face interview to discuss why they want to become an Ambassador. The teachers and administrators know that being an Ambassador isn’t easy, and in the past their meetings have taken place outside the school day. They wanted to be sure and select kids who were dedicated.
How do the Ambassadors impact younger students at their school?
The fourth grade students want to leave a legacy behind for the younger students at River Birch. The teachers who work with the Ambassadors have helped them to become mini-teachers. These mini-teachers go into the classrooms of younger students and teach them lessons pertaining to various life skills, such as responsibility and integrity. To that end, they are meeting with the teachers to discuss the best ways to approach the different age groups and little things they can do to connect the subject matter to their current interests. Each class has two Ambassadors assigned to it for the lesson, and these mini-teachers go into the rooms and actually teach to a full class of kids!
If they’re focused on teaching, what will they be learning?
The Ambassadors, while they are very busy trying to give back, are receiving some fantastic, authentic education in the process. In order to teach others, they have to fully assimilate the ideas they hope to convey. What better way to learn than to prepare to teach others!
Imagine for a moment what they are also learning about compassion and respect. Consider how they are attempting to understand people who are slightly younger than they are. I believe this is where the greatest learning may be taking place. When you are putting yourself fully into another person’s shoes in order to understand them and educate them, you have the unusual opportunity to see the world from a perspective you don’t know or don’t remember. These students are learning about leadership and service on the front lines!
Sounds like a great program – have they encountered any challenges?
The group has had a really hard time with scheduling time to meet. Many students are unable to meet outside the school day, so Mrs. DeHart and Mr. Miller have tried to squeeze in time during the day in the past. They even tried to utilize twenty minutes during lunch to prepare students to go and teach in other classes – what a chaotic image! Just think of all of those fourth graders shoveling down lunch and trying to take in the finer points of educating others, while the teachers try to pour their passion for education into the hearts of the kids! What a challenge! Fortunately, the administrators and fourth grade teachers all agree that the value of this leadership and service training is worth instructional time during the school day. For forty-five minutes per week, the teachers are able to work with the students at the end of the day before they go home from school.
What about the students who don’t get to be Ambassadors?
“Everybody needs an opportunity to know what it means to be a leader and know what it means to think about others,” says Mrs. DeHart.
Several different opportunities have been developed, and students can choose in what capacity they’d like to learn more about service. Fourth graders can elect to participate in the news crew that helps put on the morning news every day at River Birch – WRBE! The news crew learns a great deal about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a news program, such as writing and production. They may even take a field trip to Channel 8 to find out more about how news production works! Fourth graders can also select peer tutoring/mentoring which gives them the chance to work with younger students on academic subject matter. If they select peer tutoring, they receive training from teachers, the school counselor, and the school instructional coach on the best ways to help the student they tutor. They can even choose to work with the community outreach group which seeks to serve people in Avon outside of River Birch’s own walls. This is the group who built the float that represented River Birch in the Heritage Festival Parade this last Saturday!
I am thrilled that these opportunities exist for the fourth grade students at River Birch, and I only hope that these kids take the life lessons they learn on with them as they enter intermediate and middle school! The fourth graders at River Birch want to leave a lasting legacy of leadership for their younger peers – what legacy will you leave?