When I present to classes about this opportunity, I ask them to identify a quote about kindness that resonates with them, and give them several choices. Then I show them the one that resonates with me:
I tell students that I love the idea that small acts can make a big difference, and that for that reason we (myself and the Library Assistant, Michelle), have created a place for them to put this idea into action in our school, every single day. I show them these two definitions:
I point out that compassion is more than being nice. It’s about showing concern, trying to understand where another person is coming from or the experiences he or she has had to face. Makerspaces are popping up all over the K-12 landscape, with many different purposes and offerings, and although we have created an area in our library that houses materials for tinkering and discovery, I tell students that the other area we’ve carved out, our Compassionate Makerspace, has a more concentrated purpose. I tell them we’ve gathered the equipment to enable them to make a difference, and that while Michelle and I have ideas and knowledge in terms of nonprofits we can serve and projects we can create, I hope that they will take the lead in helping us to create projects and share their own knowledge of the techniques needed with other students when a project comes up that they already have the skills for.
Our space also gives students an additional opportunity that I think is very important. Past learning new skills, past learning about causes, students also get a chance to use their hands and hearts in a truly meaningful way during the school day, and it’s a chance to escape the stress and drama that seems to be overwhelming more and more students these days. Often students only have experience with service and volunteering in limited arenas, and part of our motivation was to make sure that opportunity is always waiting to be seized.
I tell students that researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science found a link between self-reported levels of good health and happiness and formal volunteer work. Furthermore, a study by United Health Group says that 76% of people who have volunteered in the past twelve months say that volunteering has made them feel happier, and 94% of people report that it improves their mood. 78% of volunteers say that it has lowered their stress levels. I tell them that helping others helps them too, and having this space in our school means that they don’t even have to leave the building to reap these benefits. Students also earn volunteer hours working in our space, and while that’s not the main point, a carrot that helps distinguish them as a candidate for future opportunities is never a bad thing in my opinion.
It’s my chance to show them how easy it can be to do good things for others, and hope it sticks. It’s my chance to make sure the students who graduate from Berthoud High School know that doing good can be part of their lifestyle, not just their every-once-in-awhile. Although our space is less than a year old, I’m hopeful. The satisfaction, positive energy, and excitement I’ve already seen has been wonderful.