Monday, May 13, 2013

The "Chelsea Center" and Sophomore Service Learning Day

In 2010, the Chelsea Detrick Learning Center was born at Webster Groves High School.  The “Chelsea Center” is named in the honor and memory of Chelsea Detrick, a beautiful and brilliant young lady and former district student who lost her life to cancer on April 9, 2009.  To learn more about the Chelsea Center including the opportunities offered to WGHS students, its mission and philosophy regarding learning through experience, and the young lady whose name it bears, please click here

What follows is just one of the many rich learning experiences supported through the Chelsea Center which has “spilled over” and influenced many:

A few years back, Katie Loher and Natalia Torres took the very first “service learning sampler” class through the Chelsea Center.  Being so moved by the experience and feeling called to bring this opportunity to others, they, along with the encouragement and support of Ms. Burchett (coordinator of the Chelsea Center) and Dr. Clark (WGHS principal), created “Sophomore Service Learning Day.”

On April 9, the entire sophomore class and over 50 WGHS staff members spread out across the greater St. Louis community as part of the 3rd Annual Sophomore Service Learning Day.  The students started the day discussing their thoughts on what they expected from the experience and then ended the day by sharing their reflections from the experiences.  In between, students could be found helping others at locations such as the Red Cross, various food pantries, neighborhood city gardens, and numerous parks inside our school district boundaries.  Learning and caring for others had “left the building.”

One of my favorite stories from the day involves a student who wasn’t overly happy to be building a garden.  However, once he arrived at the garden and learned about the preschool children whose garden this would become and the learning that he was going to influence through his service, no student worked harder.  One of the adults on hand shared, “He didn’t even stop to break as he was determined for the project to be completed by the time we stepped back on the bus!”      

Please read the following quote from co-creator Katie Loher, as she describes how the experience and day has evolved over the past 3 years:

“It has grown immensely.  Our first year we did everything by paper, and it was only the three of us making the phone calls, gathering organizations, stuffing goody bags, talking to classes, etc.  Since then, we have gotten lots of help from other teachers and we have worked with the tech people at school and developed a website so the students can fill where they want to work online.  This makes everything go SO much faster.  It took us so many less hours this year than the last two years just because of technology and all the extra help.  Natalia and I have worked to train some underclassmen so that when we graduate, they can take over for us.  It was so much fun teaching everything we had learned, and watching our idea grow into an annual school event.  Watching the younger students take over and really be passionate about something that Natalia and I created is so humbling to me, and I can’t wait to come back from college and see how the event has developed.”

Just another reason why it’s good to be a learner in the WGSD!

Each child, each day…John