By Margaret Locher, Contributing Reporter
Hudson ?The Hubert Kindergarten Center in Hudson has a special outlook on teaching. Teachers help students become responsible for their own learning and behavior in the classroom through a Character Education approach called “Responsive Classroom.”
The school also uses the instructional strategy of “Service-Learning,” which combines academic learning with community service. The theory is if one can build a sense of community within a classroom, then that community can expand to include the entire school and, beyond that, the town.
Dr. Mary McCarthy is the school's principal and district director for character education and service learning.
“The community cares a lot about the young people in Hudson,” she said. “They want students who are high-achieving academically, but also students who are good people and engaged citizens who contribute to the community.”
The community-oriented approach to learning begins in the school system's 12 kindergarten classes. The curriculum is built around engaging students as individuals but ensuring that no one is ever left out. In addition to helping children learn the routines of school and setting expectations for behavior, the Hubert Kindergarten students engage in community service programs such as the annual food pantry project, which began in 1996.
The project begins each October with teachers discussing with their students the issue of families who may not have enough food. Students visit the food pantry at 28 Houghton St. and see how it is different from the supermarket. They each have clipboards and they make notes of what kinds of things are plentiful and what is missing. Those lists are sent to parents and when donations begin coming in, students stock the shelves themselves. The children and teachers discuss ?how it feels to help people.
“Counting, sorting, writing and reading are all part of the project,” McCarthy said. “Students work alongside teachers, agencies and community partners, so they meet a lot of adults who recognize their skills. That builds confidence.”
In 2005, one teacher had the idea of documenting the kindergarteners” work. A book and a video were produced, titled “Our Story of the Food Pantry: How Hubert Kindergartner Center Students Helped the Community.” Profits from the book, which cost $10 each, go to the food pantry. The book can be purchased by contacting McCarthy at the school at [email protected].
Valentines for Veterans is the next project on the kindergarten's schedule this year. Each year, they make valentines for the veterans in the Veterans Hospital in Bedford as a way to brighten the day of those who may not have family members nearby. A staff member from the hospital also? comes to speak with the classes and personally thank the students.
“It's a successful and easy program,” said McCarthy said. “It reinforces the skills we want kids to have, in terms of drawing, using color and thinking of others.”