SPRING 2014 CONTINUES BOOKS AND BASKETBALL SERVICE TRADITION
Since SEGL’s founding in 2009, students have advocated for service learning opportunities. But is hard to find compelling service for 24 high school students to do simultaneously, especially alongside so many competing priorities. Considerations like safety, transportation, and timing add to the challenge. And our Director Noah Bopp prefers that any service be regular: serving at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving is satisfying, but it does not teach nearly as much as serving every week.
Thanks to an innovative partnership with Thomson Elementary, a Title I elementary school just north of Metro Center, we can meet our students’ need in a meaningful and fun way.
Books and Basketball happens on Wednesday afternoons, after our Ethics and Leadership day. Our students trek 20 minutes down Massachusetts Avenue and sign in at the front door of Thomson’s old DC schoolhouse (so old that the entrances on each side of the building are still marked separately for “Boys” and “Girls”).
For the first 30 minutes, each student pairs with one first or second-grader to work on reading skills. Most of the students are ELL (English Language Learners); about 60 percent are Latino, 30 percent Chinese, and 10 percent African American. All receive free or reduced-price meals at the school. The reading session allows the students to do something they rarely do at home: work on English reading skills.
Then we move to the gym for basketball! These sessions are often the only organized sports activities the children ever receive. They also learn discipline (“toes on the line!”), teamwork (“support your teammates even if they miss!”), fine motor skills (“elbow over knee under ball!”), and other lessons. (Special thanks to Modell’s Sporting Goods for supplying the 12 tiny hands-sized basketballs that we use.) Each semester we work on shooting, dribbling, passing, and defense.
The results of these opportunities are huge for the Thomson students, who improve their reading considerably over the 15 weeks of the semester, but they also help our students gain a first-hand understanding of the public school system, poverty and its associated challenges, managing the sturm und drang of tiny emotions, and pushing aside a day’s woes to prioritize the needs of the less fortunate.
Below you can find pictures from some of our sessions, as well as a few short videos of our students reading and playing basketball with the Thomson kids.