At Innovation Montessori Ocoee, students sat wide-eyed as they learned that many of their homes now stand on the same ground that used to host acres of orange groves.
It’s just the reaction that Jim Crescitelli, program director for the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, loved to see as he continued to share nuggets of history with the middle-schoolers in front of him Wednesday, Sept. 6.
As part of the curriculum at the school — formerly known as Montessori of Winter Garden Charter School — students participate in “Worthwhile Wednesdays,” which affords them the opportunity to learn about their community while giving back to it.
“We often say in education that we are always caring and thinking about the whole child,” said Patrice Cherico, executive director of Innovation Montessori. “Part of that, and what I appreciate about the school, is that we really take the time out to help educate the child around the community and servicing the community.”
“With the dollar they donate or whatever it is, it’s like a concrete way of voting for history.” — Jim Crescitelli, Winter Garden Heritage Foundation
Worthwhile Wednesdays take place monthly, and students can donate spare change or a couple of dollars to that month’s charity or organization of choice. In return, they get to wear a school spirit shirt and jeans and have an opportunity to learn about the charity to which they are donating.
Students get to be involved in the process of choosing a charity or organization and are given guidance on important things to consider before making their decision.
“Personally, it’s my favorite thing that we do here,” said sixth-grader Ava Johnson. “We had a group last year who got to choose the charities that are local, and (the charities) would come in and tell us what they did.”
With the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation being this month’s recipient for the school’s Worthwhile Wednesdays program, Crescitelli said it’s a tangible way for students to contribute to their community while learning about it.
“With the dollar they donate or whatever it is, it’s like a concrete way of voting for history,” he said. “And because the building is up and running and all of that, they actually get to see what their contribution does, and it’s really generous of them.”
Cherico said a recent field trip to the heritage museum, along with a desire to thank their community for hosting their school, might have been what sparked the students’s decision to give back to it.
“It aligns with ... the stage of development that our upper-elementary children are in,” Assistant Principal Cathy Tobin said. “One of the features of that stage of development is that children notice inequities in the world and want to try to solve them or make them better.”