Carol Clark and Jon Kostic, Edgewood High School Special Education Department, Harford County, (410) 612-4500
Ms. Clark’s and Mr. Kostic’s classes worked on a “Heart to Heart Homeless Shelter Project.” Initially, the two classes watched a video, “Shelter Boy,” to learn how people become homeless. Then Ms. Clark’s class read about the impact homelessness has on the community and about the different organizations that support and help those who are homeless on a statewide and nationwide level.
Through the “Heart to Heart Project” our classes identified a shelter in Harford County that could use assistance. The students communicated via telephone with the case manager to identify the specific needs of families at the shelter.
As an ongoing project, the students have and will make birthday cards for the children staying at the shelter now and throughout the summer. A calendar was established and hand-made birthday cards are sent to the shelters as birthdays occur.
After talking to the case manager to find out the needs of families, we also collected $98.00 to purchase items such as cleaning supplies, toiletry items, and school supplies. The two classes collected clothing, personal items and toys. They sorted, folded, and boxed the items. The boxes were delivered to the shelter in March. The two classes held a celebration at which they presented the case manager with all the items. She greatly appreciated our efforts and shared with us how they were able to maintain 16 shelters for homeless families here in Harford County.
Best Practice 1: Meet a recognized need in the community
The Holy Family House, a local homeless shelter, and its resident children and adults were helped by our project.
Best Practice 2: Achieve curricular objectives through service-learning
A self-contained special education and resource classroom implemented this project. In the classroom, we have been working on communication skills in school and home settings. Students used those communication skills to ask parents for permission to bring in outgrown clothes and other items. Students had to take the initiative to conduct collections. They learned to take responsibility, to be aware of and respect deadlines, and other important organizational skills. They also learned to be caring about others and to respect all people regardless of their situation.
Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the service-learning experience
Students watched a video that raised awareness and stimulated discussions. During the course of the project, students discussed such topics as lack of stability, children’s need for recognition, and the various problems of homelessness. Students were also asked to compare and contrast their own birthday with those of the homeless children.
Best Practice 4: Develop student responsibility
Students called a case manager at a homeless shelter. Students also learned how to use a fax machine to fax information. Students organized what type of clothing to gather and folded, boxed, and stored items. They organized a system for birthday card making and sending. The students also organized a celebration to give collected items to the case manager.
Best Practice 5: Establish community partnerships
The Holy Family House, Aberdeen, Maryland was helped by our project.
Best Practice 6: Plan ahead for service-learning
A shelter was selected from a list of homeless shelters in Harford County. The case manager was contacted and a plan was developed through discussion and study. The students read about homelessness and watched a video on homelessness.
Best Practice 7: Equip students with knowledge and skills needed for service
The students learned the important organizational skills of scheduling, sequencing, counting, and collecting money. They learned important communication skills including phone use, use of a fax machine, and letter writing. In addition, they learned the value and effectiveness of teamwork.