A Lesson in Kindness

It’s no secret that the Common Trust—agreeing to relate to one another and the School with respect, trust, honesty, fairness, and kindness—is an important component of a University School of Milwaukee education. But in addition to learning about it in their classrooms, students are encouraged to practice in it their everyday lives.

Nowhere is this more evident that in a recent 3rd-grade field trip to Riverwest Food Pantry in Milwaukee. “I wanted the students to dive deeper into the Common Trust and what it can mean for them on a daily basis,” said Brita Willis, 3rd-grade teacher and field trip organizer. “Not only can we be kind to those in our classrooms and hallways, we can carry that into our neighborhoods and communities.”

Prior to the field trip, students learned about the cost of food in class and were challenged to “feed” a family of five on a limited budget. They studied grocery store fliers and coupons to assess what types of food would provide the most value. “They had fun pretending to be mom or dad planning meals and making nutritious choices,” Willis said. “Even though it’s make-believe, I think it plants a seed of awareness that will grow as they continue with service learning during their time at USM.”

“It plants a seed of awareness that will grow as they continue with service.”

As part of the project, students completed chores at home to earn money, which they then used to purchase food to donate to Riverwest. They were encouraged to apply what they learned in class when shopping for food. “I was thinking about getting spaghetti for dinner because that’s what I would eat,” said 3rd-grader Gurleen Ahuja. “I’m not a huge fan of macaroni and cheese, but my dad said we should get it because I’m not the one who’s going to eat it.”

This is the second year students have visited the food pantry. “The children are very hands-on at the pantry, doing everything from sorting to weighing and recording their donations,” Willis said. “They feel empowered that they are trusted with such responsibility. Many times I overheard students asking the food pantry staff, ‘What else can I do?’ Because they were involved throughout the entire process, I believe they feel personally connected to the experience.”

The students donated roughly 700 items to Riverwest, including canned goods, boxes of cereal, pasta, and more. “I think that our School is making a big donation and I feel like we’re really helping, said 3rd-grader Nina Goldberg. “I think this is really fun.”

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