The idea of CommuniTeach began at the Lower School a few years ago as a way to bring members of the community to our school to work with students in their area of expertise. Students were able to explore new topics, and our guest teachers enjoyed sharing their knowledge and giving back to the community. The tradition has continued, and, this year, was combined with a Day of Service for Middle and Upper School students. Faculty, staff, trustees, and parents joined the fun, as well. We sorted books, raked and cleared trails, scrubbed walls, sanitized toys, stacked books, played, led workshops, and enjoyed each other’s company and good will.

Lower School Head Rebekah Jordan summarized the successes of CommuniTeach: “From the 9th grade community service volunteers to the business, development, and communication staff, to our courageous parents and board members, to our last minute pinch hitters (thank you Amy and Zelina!), everyone’s contributions were meaningful and appreciated.”

Perhaps the best feedback came from the kids, who were all smiles.

Students who took part in Darren Winston’s Nature Card workshop truly enjoyed creating picturesque cards from clippings that they found, cut and pasted from Reader’s Digest and other publications about the natural world. The students finished cards consisted of pictures of animals, the environment, personal interests, etc… Many of the students wrote messages in their cards to offer them as gifts to friends or family members. It was wonderful to see the unique creativity that each of the students possessed.

On the River Walk, students in grades pre-kindergarten through second balanced on logs and rocks to cross the raging “river” on the nature walk. It was a miracle that no one fell in!

During the Fairy Houses workshop, Rebekah Blu’s channeled students’ ideas to bring their whimsy to life. Inspired by the elements of wind, water, earth, and fire, each fairy home was as unique as it’s maker.

Lower School parent Leora Armstrong led a workshop inspired by the art of Andy Goldsworthy workshop. She shared some of his work with the kids in books, and the students were immediately excited. She had gathered a variety of materials with several designs in mind, all exciting and manageable for the kids. They were able to use the material in their own ways and learn some design elements that enabled them to achieve a great finished product. It was fantastic all around (chilly though!).

Colin led the fly-fishing workshop, which started with an investigation of different flies and how they are used to attract the fish. He told some fun fishing stories of his own. Then off we went to the field for casting practice. Each student had a turn to practice casting while others cheered them on. Swedish fish at the end for all.

Middle School Day of Service Reflections
Jody Bliss did a writing reflection exercise with the Middle School after our Day of Service in April. The students drew more from the day than we could have hoped. Below are some of their reflections.

“I think we did the day of service to give back to our community. So many people have done so much for IMS and it is important that we recognize this. The mountain is a big part of IMS and it is pretty much the ‘backyard.’ To help clean it up was awesome and some people will really appreciate it and use the trails more often. Overall, it was a really good day and we helped a lot of people and things out.” Cassie S.

“My day of service was a great day. I hiked with all of my 6th grade pals. We cleared trail paths, threw some stones and logs, and even got dirty. But isn’t that what hiking is? We got lost, but found the way back with teamwork.” Gerald B.

“The day of service was pretty fun, mostly because we were helping many people in what we were doing. We hiked for a pretty long time, just clearing and trails of logs, rocks, and twigs. We did this so that people hiking up the mountain could really enjoy the beauty of the mountain and not be tripping and trying to avoid a bunch of logs. In my opinion, we definitely impacted the trails because on the way down it looked very clear of all the branches, twigs, and rocks. The day of service was definitely different from a regular day at school unless your group gets lost in the woods on a daily basis. The day of service was very fun, but tiring. I am glad we got the chance to help others.” Drew B.

“The day of service was an important event at IMS. If I could think of a picture perfect school, a part of it would be a school that takes care of their community. On the day of service, that was exactly what we did. Hopefully, we will continue to take care of the community and follow the IMS motto, life through service. On the day of service, the 6th grade went and picked up the mountain trail. This was an important thing to do because a neat trail is very helpful for both our safety and enjoyment on the trail. Personally, on the day of service, I liked the feeling of community that we had as we cleared the trail and it was nice to think you were making a difference. The day of service was a pleasant experience and I am looking forward to doing it next year.” Olivia P.

Ms Hill wrote, “The Day of Service was one of the most enjoyable days we’ve had as a 6th grade group this year. Being out on the mountain trails doing maintenance gave the kids an opportunity to live our “life through service” motto, and the most fun part of that opportunity, from my perspective, was hearing the kids recognize that what they were doing was important and that they felt like they were making a real contribution. As we walked along, we got to talk in a really organic way about the work we were doing and what it meant. They noticed things in the woods that piqued their interest and shared them with each other; they asked each other questions and listened to their peers’ answers; they collaborated to problem solve or to analyze something they found; they worked hard and immediately saw the difference they were making, right beneath their feet and in the school’s backyard. The most frequent comment I heard from the kids was ‘I wish we could do this every week/month/year!’ –I would echo the same thing!”

“It was fun to see the fifth graders working/playing in the woods. They had a great time picking up sticks and generally enjoying being in nature. The freedom they enjoyed reminded us of how fun it is to be in the woods.” –Mr. Bliss

Mrs. Bliss shared, “It was a great way to spend time with the kids–totally different and totally fun. I’d like us to consider a day like this in the fall and spring, both when the weather is best.”

Upper School Reflections:
Head of Upper School Flynn Corson offered “heartfelt gratitude for the inspiration that was our day of service. We gave fuller meaning to the concept of Community Service today as our entire Upper School community lent helping hands to so many other communities beyond the boundaries of our campus. I’ve already heard so many of our students raving about the fun they had and the differences they made. Nothing could be more gratifying than witnessing the gratification they experienced through giving of themselves.”

Dean of Faculty Alex Hodosy shared a list of heartwarming and hilarious anecdotes:
–Damien and Karl acknowledging that being a teacher is “really tough work.”
–Isabel and Isabella holding court on the playground swings
–Rawm being unbelievably slippery in a game of playground tag
–Ima and Bruno teaching gamesmanship, respect, and manners during kickball
–A chorus line with Henry, Charlie, and Lars to “Fly me to the Moon” on the (chilly!) walk down
–Hope helping to build bridges out of spaghetti and marshmallows with a crew of 2nd graders hanging on her every word
–Mr. A. breaking every step-count record in existence with his shoelaces tied together with an entire lower school chasing after him (that’s a video that everyone should see)
From ninth grader Marilyn:
“The ninth graders’ work at the lower campus was meaningful because our service fulfilled the school’s motto life through service. We set an example for the younger children about helping people, therefore, when they grow up and have the ability, they will cherish the sense of caring through service.

We can only gain something when we give out something, otherwise, our capacity would be too full to absorb anything else. In the day of service, we gave out our positive energy and in return we gained a different state of mind and shared responsibilities with the teachers through our service. Our work benefited multilaterally.

I watched how creative the kids are because I was part of the fairy houses. It was worthy for us to spend a day with them, which could stimulate our creativity and led us to realize that we should not trouble ourselves with stress and negative energy.”