Dressed in their uniform red shirts, the 5- and 6-year-olds ambled sheepishly toward the senior citizens seated around the tables, all of whom were eager to catch a moment of individual time with the children. Some of the children struck up a conversation and could have talked for days, said kindergarten teacher Sara Lucas.
The 90 kindergartners from Oakland Avenue Charter School participated in an outreach project Friday, May 13. They started their morning by painting small ceramic pieces — such as cars, flowers, animals and the word “love.” Some were deliberate with their colorful strokes, and others painted with a determination to finish quickly.
The artwork was set out to dry in the warm sun, and then the students boarded a bus to Golden Pond Communities Assisted Living, in Winter Garden, to deliver their gifts. Each painted object was graciously accepted by the senior residents, and then the five classes sang songs and visited with the residents.
After leaving the assisted-living facility, the children went to downtown Winter Garden to participate in a scavenger hunt before engaging in more community service. They passed out water to walkers and cyclists on the West Orange Trail and also picked up trash to help keep the neighborhood clean.
The kindergarten teachers are Sara Lucas, Michele Murphy, Michale Brandt, Andrea Wanuck and Julia Ugartechea.
At the beginning of the school year, the entire school identified a community outreach project or field trip.
“In kindergarten, we spend a lot of time connecting to our community, and this was a really easy way for them to go out in the community and meet their neighbors and connect their place in the world with their neighbors,” Lucas said. “It’s really important for students at this age to discover ways they can give back to their community, and it was an easy way to make someone’s day and give back.”
She said one student came to her with a concern. After the little girl gave her gift to a senior, the elderly woman said she was upset because her lunch partner couldn’t make it to the table that day. The child was feeling empathy for her new friend.
“We’re going to continue this community outreach again next year,” Lucas said. “They’re making meaningful connections.”
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].