TVA Students Learn to Have Servant Hearts

February 21, 2017 | Rachel Blackburn

Kids have big hearts — hearts much like Jesus’ heart. Their compassion, generosity and love for others knows no bounds. That made the first- and second-grade students at Tualatin Valley Academy (TVA) in Hillsboro, Ore., the perfect match for a Christmas service project benefiting Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Ore.

Every month, first- and second-graders at TVA are assigned a homework project. In December 2016, that project was service to others — earning money to purchase toys and fun Band-Aids for kids in the children’s hospital at Christmas. Teachers Jennifer Wendt and Darby Granberry led their students through a project-based learning exercise, which teaches students multiple skills in the context of one overarching project. This in turn helps them understand math skills, writing, money management and more within a common theme of service.

“We started this project as a way to integrate STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math] learning with project-based learning and help others, but it became so much more than we expected," says Wendt.

Students did chores for friends, family and neighbors to earn money. They used the money to purchase toys to donate to the children’s hospital. They were also tasked with buying a pack of fun Band-Aids with their earnings to donate to the hospital.

How did the kids receive the project? Excited and eager is an understatement. They wanted to work as hard as possible to earn as much as possible.

Often service projects at a first- or second-grade level involve the parents doing much of the work or purchasing needed items, but this was all about the kids independently earning money to donate. They learned what it meant to truly give of themselves through their own actions and hard work in order to brighten someone else’s day. And they were earning money for someone and something they could relate to: kids in the hospital at Christmas who might like a new toy.

Students did a range of chores from hanging Christmas lights and doing laundry to sorting shoes and peeling potatoes. They were proud to take their hard-earned money to the store and pick out just the right Band-Aids to donate.

At the end of the project, each student gave a presentation to their class about what they did and how much they earned after buying the Band-Aids. They then gathered the gifts to be donated and sent them on their way to the children’s hospital.

More than $520 was raised to purchase toys, but the intrinsic value of teaching kids to serve others from such a young age is something that will stick with these students for a lifetime.