When classroom curriculum is interwoven with meaningful, authentic and rewarding community partnerships based on actual need, students learn civic responsibility, appreciate a sense of shared humanity, and strengthen our communities for the common good. For Brookwood’s first graders, last week’s Empty Bowls Dinner celebrated a year of partnership with their friends at Wellspring House in Gloucester. Guided by their vision of a society where everyone has the opportunity to live a positive life and driven by their mission to empower families to live more secure lives through basic needs assistance, education and job training, Wellspring House provides assistance to over 1,000 local families each year.

The 5th annual dinner—which was hosted on Brookwood’s campus and attended by first grade students, parents, teachers and leaders from Wellspring—provided an opportunity to celebrate the ways in which Brookwood and Wellspring collaborate throughout the school year. Named for the ceramic bowls which are hand-crafted and decorated by students then filled with soup—also prepared by students—the event recognized the many hands and hearts that make the year-long partnership possible.

First grade students played an integral role at the dinner by sharing a cross-curricular presentation that summarized their unique relationship with Wellspring. Over the course of the academic year, students:

  • are introduced to the concept of homelessness through classroom discussions and visits with Wellspring representatives
  • plant hundreds of bulbs and vegetables at Wellspring
  • venture to the local grocery store to purchase items in support of holiday events
  • help coordinate Thanksgiving dinners for Wellspring’s shelter guests
  • collect and deliver book donations for the Holiday Store and the Little Lending Library
  • compile “leaving baskets” stocked with household items which are given to those moving out of shelter and into permanent housing
  • craft inspirational note cards, keychains and refrigerator magnets

Since 1999, Brookwood’s first grade has collaborated with Wellspring. And just this past week, as colorful splashes of tulips, daffodils and crocuses—planted in the fall by first graders—began to appear along Wellspring’s walkways and in their gardens, we celebrated the seasonal change as it marks another year in which Brookwood students have helped make a lasting impact in their local community.