The 21st Century world in which our children are growing and learning - and in which they will one day work and become productive and thoughtful members of our community at large - will require them to be agents of change, both aware of and adept at addressing issues of both local and global importance. The goal of the Service Learning Program at Chatham Day School is twofold: to inform our students of these issues and to instill in them a desire to make a positive difference in the world around them. Understanding their responsibilities as individual citizens and members of a community is the critical first step in this undertaking.
At the earliest ages, our Early Childhood and Lower School students learn to “give back” whenever possible - whether that is drawing a picture for hospital patients, drawing smiles for the Color-A-Smile program, or decorating lunch bags for the Bridges Outreach program in their efforts to provide meals to homeless men, women, and children in the metropolitan areas of New York and New Jersey. As students move through our Lower School years, they continue to participate in age-appropriate projects - writing to veterans, organizing the school’s recycling program, collecting pennies for service dogs, or contributing to food drives organized by older students.
In the Middle and Upper Schools,students take a biannual course in Service Learning, studying two broad themes each year before designing, organizing, and leading school wide projects. Guest speakers from area not-for-profit organizations are invited to help broaden students’ perspectives and share essential information on the selected themes, and teachers of core academic subjects integrate meaningful connections within their disciplines to the ongoing service work whenever possible.
In recent years, Middle & Upper School students have studied topics such as food insecurity and hunger, seniors & aging process, and disabilities. Student-led initiatives have included an all-school Dance-a-Thon (2015), volunteer trips to the Community FoodBank in Hillside (2016), visits to a senior center and pen pal letters, car wash (2017), and several drives to raise supplies for a variety of local charitable organizations (including Move for Hunger in Asbury and Market Street Mission in Morristown). We have also hosted a number of speakers to our campus, including the ABLE program at Cheshire Home and the Morristown Soup Kitchen.