The Straight A Student: Altruism

Emerald Connection, January 16th, 2023

This is the second of a four part series of articles about The Straight A Student.  If you missed last week’s article about achievement, you can go back and read it (and many other past posts) here.  This week, I would like to continue exploring what makes for strong student connections and success in school by writing about altruism, the second “A.”

We have worked hard this year to expand our service learning opportunities.  The phrase “service learning” captures the two sides of altruism: we act in service of others and grow from it ourselves.  Altruism is powerful in schools because it provides both community and personal benefits.

Steamboat Mountain School is committed to a philosophical disposition towards altruism.  It is embedded in our school’s values: our mission statement and our core principles of the power of connectedness and the impact of wholeness.  It has become embodied through the work of our faculty, supportive parents, and students.

We chose to emphasize service learning this week to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is common for schools to be closed on major holidays and to treat them as vacations and long weekends.  However, it is powerful to be in school on a holiday and to spend time thinking about why we celebrate this day.  Throughout the week, many of our classes will be touching on Martin Luther King and the contributions he and others made to our society.  At the same time, every class will be engaging in at least one service project during the week.  Here are some of the events that happened today:

  • Grade K & 5 made blankets for local hospitals together
  • Grade 1 & 2 baked cookies for community helpers that they value and then delivered the first batch to employees at the library
  • Grade 3 & 4 students visited Casey’s Pond
  • Grade 5 worked with Yampatika to begin a new community-wide campaign: Keep it Clean.
  • Grade 8 worked with kids who are at the boys and girls club today because most schools are out of session.
  • Grades 6 & 7 will be heading out later in the week to work with Lift Up.

While all of these service opportunities extend beyond our school community, we also look for chances to take care of each other within our school community.  It is embedded in one of our school norms: take care of self and others.  Students who care for others do better in school because they gain greater empathy, new perspectives, and a sense of purpose.  These all add to a stronger sense of belonging and efficacy, which translates to the rest of school, too.

Often, the best indication of school effectiveness is when our values and learning are evident outside of class time.  Next week, I am ceding this article space to an 8th grader, Jude Fesperman, who has written about his own experience with altruism and what it means to him.  Please be on the lookout for his article next week and for future articles from our Grade 8 students as the semester continues.

Take care of yourself and others,

Greg Friedman
K-8 Director