Shyma El Sayed, a TCS student, helped kids write their names in hieroglyphics, giving them a glimpse of Egyptian culture. Meghan Butler, a post-doctoral fellow in the Office of Community Partnerships, and her husband Justin Lone showed them how to craft tulips, the favorite flower of the Netherlands, in a tie-dyed paper version.
They, and about 20 others from The Chicago School community and friends, spent Saturday, Jan. 16, volunteering with the nonprofit organization Chicago Cares in its Martin Luther King Jr. Saturday of Service.
It was the latest in an ongoing series of events planned by The Chicago School's Office of Community Partnerships. Since it started up in 2006, this Office has connected students, from their first semester of enrollment, to service opportunities in the community. It is an integral part of The Chicago School Model of Education.
The volunteers created a fun, engaging World's Fair, an enrichment activity complete with games, crafts and activities, for students at Jackie Robinson Elementary School on Chicago's South Side. The school serves 91.5 percent low-income students, according to Chicago Public Schools statistics.
"I thought it was wonderful. It was engaging for the kids and they learned something about other cultures, too," said Ericka Gaddy, the mother of Robinson student Andrea Gaddy.
"It's fun," Andrea chimed in.
Oliver Miller, coordinator in the Office of Community Partnerships, said the event had more volunteers and more enthusiasm than last year, when six volunteers showed up and were assigned to paint walls.
Miller, who is also an Illinois Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA worker, contacted Robbie Culp of the Illinois Psychology Association for Graduate Students, and partnered with that organization through Chicago Cares.
When TCS volunteers arrived at Robinson School, they used crepe paper and colorful signs to decorate stations in the school gym for the World's Fair's eight different countries.
When the Robinson students, who ranged from pre-schoolers to third-graders, and a few siblings and friends burst in to the gym, TCS students Reshma Rampersad and Brittany Hopf were ready for them at the Native American station. They showed kids how to string bead and feather necklaces inspired by those of the Iroquois and Algonquin tribes.
At the United Kingdom table, TCS student Emily Arnstein and Donna Knapp, assistant to the chief academic officer, taught kids how to play an English game called stones, similar to jacks, in which players toss one stone up in the air and try to pick up as many others as possible before it lands.
Anne Howard, post-doctoral fellow in the Office of Community Partnerships, and Sayaka Machizawa, associate director of the Office of Community Partnerships, worked with kids to create origami boxes at the Japan table, while at the China table, Jill Glenn, director of the Office of Community Partnerships, and her husband Dan helped kids use tangrams, triangle-shaped pieces of colored paper, to create images of animals.
Students played hopscotch at the Bolivia station, where Erica Rumpel, service learning coordinator in the Office of Community Partnerships, helped kids call out the days of the week in Spanish as they hopped. And at the Ghana station, they played a game called Moonshine Baby, in which one player is blindfolded while another child is outlined in string while laying on the floor. The player who was blindfolded then looks at the empty outline and tries to guess the occupant's identity.
For more than two hours, children went from table to table and eagerly tried each new game or activity. They focused intently as they created an Egyptian cartouche or Iroquois necklace, and smiled when they finished their tulips and origami.
Mallori Smith, Becky Simpson, Kenyatta Coleman, Theresa Duphare and Priya Duphare from The Chicago School community also contributed their creativity and efforts to the World's Fair.
Robinson School's principal, Jacqueline Wilson-Thomas, said she greatly appreciated the volunteers' work.
"The kids need to be exposed to other cultures and other countries. They get so much out of it. Everything you did today was wonderful," she said.
Suzette McCullar, mother of Sabrina Brookins, a second-grader, said, "We had fun. We had a blast visiting all the countries of the world, and we learned some new things, too."
Through the Office of Community Engagement, students serve the greater good in a variety of ways, such as through internships or practica in neighborhood settings where mental health skills are needed. They also participate in community-engaged scholarship, in which they provide service, conduct research and use problem-solving skills to assist nonprofit organizations or other institutions addressing societal problems.
Since last June alone, the office has coordinated nearly 31,000 hours of service to the Chicago community, delivered by more than 320 students. Last year the office received a $500,000 Learn and Serve grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. This will provide opportunities over the next three years to more than 1,100 students.
Watch for other opportunities to volunteer with The Chicago School community. These include judging a children's essay contest about the importance of fathers, participating in a depression screening day or donating to a blood drive. For more information, contact Sayaka Machizawa at firstname.lastname@example.org.