Throughout my years in the Upper Arlington Schools, one of the things I have been most proud of has been our commitment to service-learning throughout the year. This is a tradition that stretches back decades, and it is something that is top of mind during a time of year when community needs may be greater.
Service learning gives students an opportunity to meet a real community need that connects back to what they’re learning in the classroom. They gain an understanding about things that are bigger than themselves and are able to take away a lifelong lesson about the importance of serving others — all while incorporating academic skills in areas such as literacy and language arts, math, science and social studies.
Service learning is an important part of our academic program and whole learning, a priority in the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan for Upper Arlington Schools. This learning is occurring all the time in our schools.
Our staff and students at Hastings and Jones Middle Schools have a long-standing tradition of celebrating and honoring veterans in our community through their Veterans Day programs. These events allow our eighth-grade students to expand their knowledge about the role of veterans in American history while recognizing the service and sacrifice of those who have served their country.
Over the past several years, Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School has also built a tradition of learning about and honoring veterans through their Veterans Day town hall meeting. Students have expanded this tradition after learning about the work of the national nonprofit organization Canine Companions, which provides service dogs to individuals with disabilities including veterans.
To support Canine Companions, these enterprising students have sold handmade dog treats during lunch and asked their peers to bring in excess Halloween candy to donate to a “buy-back” program that pays $1 per pound of candy and sends the extra treats to troops overseas. In the past two years, nearly $1,000 has been raised to support Canine Companions.
At Tremont Elementary School, the longtime service-learning focus for first grade classes has been access to clean water. Through this project, students have gained an understanding of how important access to clean drinking water is for children around the world and in our own country as well. This year, these young students led their entire school community in a “Walk for Water” to raise awareness about the issue while also raising money for Navajo Water Project, which brings clean water to homes across the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona that do not have access to water or sewer lines.
In addition to service-learning, our students are engaging in acts of service all the time — through volunteer opportunities at their schools and in the community and simple acts of kindness, such as providing nonperishable items for Thanksgiving meals for members of their school community or the greater Columbus community that need some extra support this year.
Our students, staff and families are truly committed to supporting those in need and living out our vision of uniquely accomplished students prepared to serve, lead and succeed. That commitment is something I will always treasure from my time here in Upper Arlington.
With this being my final column as superintendent of the Upper Arlington Schools, I want to close with a thank you to the entire Upper Arlington community. It has been a privilege to serve you for the past 10 years. While I am retiring as superintendent, my family and I will continue to be proud residents of Upper Arlington and proud Golden Bears! Thank you for the best years of my career — and, as always, Go Bears!
Paul Imhoff, Ed.D., is the superintendent of the Upper Arlington Schools.