The Lotus School has a carefully considered approach to service learning. Teenagers do not typically begin doing chores spontaneously at home, and few recognize on their own that their efforts can make a big difference in the community. At our school, service is a part of daily responsibilities and directly improves the quality of life for teachers and students. Cleaning the building, ensuring that items are in their proper place and used in the proper way, preparing food and snacks for others, cleaning up after meals, as well as weekly care-taking practices are empowering for teens. When young people put forth effort, they want that effort to be meaningful.
Students also learn that expressing gratefulness is essential to a community functioning smoothly. Students benefit from the efforts of their parents and teachers, and they come to see their own effort as worthy of acknowledgement. This direct experience creates empathy.
Stepping out of school to help others is another stage in the scaffolding. Twice a year, we help a local church with its enormous rummage sale fundraiser. The students see that communities have to work hard to remain vital, and sometimes need outside help. Our students over the years have visited elderly members of the community, cleaned up illegal dumping sites, removed invasive plant species, and organized blood drives. This year, in addition to St. Luke’s rummage sale, our students helped Rolling Harvest pick and collect surplus crops from a local farm to be delivered to shelters and food banks.