Kristi Wittenberg

Grade Level: 
7 and 8
Maconaquah Middle School
United States
Why I want my students to be involved in volunteering and service, etc. 
I first learned about giving through my parents who help out many people through their church. I was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, and because of others’ generosity, I learned the importance of giving back. I want to pass this on to my students because I believe that this makes you a better person.
Tips for infusing philanthropy... 
My students developed a special relationship with the Caring Hands Nursing Home residents through our recent service-learning project. The motivation for this activity came from the students. They chose to make and deliver blankets and cards to the nursing home and then spend time getting to know the residents. They chose blankets because in previous visits not all the residents received blankets, and the students wanted to reach them all and give them something to prepare for the cold this winter. After this project, the activities director told the students about another need of wheelchair-bound residents — tote bags to carry their odds and ends. The students are already making plans to meet that need.
I taught this LTG lesson 
Prior to our visit, we used the Learning to Give lesson “Setting the Stage for Service-Learning” to prepare the students to relate to the elderly. The lesson activities gave the students a better understanding of how stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination can affect relationships with elderly people, who should be treated with respect. The lesson activities helped the students come together and work with more purpose.
Student Impact 
Both the students and the nursing home residents were impacted by this experience. It helped to close the generation gap, giving both sides a chance to see quality in the other generation. The seniors loved the attention and kindness of the students and appreciated the blankets to keep them warm and to remind them of their middle school friends. The students felt great about their gift and gained sensitivity and interpersonal skills. They learned that a little kindness makes a big difference to others. The positive experience drove many of them to seek more opportunities to be generous. Students also used academic skills in their research and discussions about stereotypes, as well as in following directions and measuring to make the blankets, and writing to make cards. One eighth grader took the lead on this project, and I really enjoyed watching her interact with the Alzheimer’s patients. She did a fantastic job talking with the residents. Watching her step up as a leader, make calls, and write cards because she truly wanted to give to the residents was one of my proudest moments as a teacher. Truly a blessing!