Service Learning and Character Education at The Admiral

On Wednesday this past week, the K–2 group headed to The Admiral, a local retirement community with a nursing care component. For me, this experience epitomized Chicago Friends School’s dedication to character education.

First, just getting to and from The Admiral made me realize what a flexible, gritty, and savvy (not to mention well-behaved) group of kids we have. When sixteen 5-to 8-year-olds readily walked 1.5 miles in cold weather without complaint and happily and confidently hopped on the CTA bus to return to school, I was impressed. I grew up in suburbia, where driving was the norm, and walking or taking public transit was very rare. I loved how comfortable our students were navigating the city.

When we were at The Admiral, I was able to observe students stretch beyond their comfort zones. It is not always easy to talk to strangers, let alone strangers that may not hear well or see well or may not fully understand what you are saying. This didn’t stop our students, not even the shyest ones. Our students made Valentine’s Day cards for our friends at The Admiral and hand-delivered them with grace and patience. The students were respectful and kind and made us very proud.

Upon returning from The Admiral and reflecting on the experience, students recognized the service they had done. They understood that their presence made others feel good, and they noted instances in which they had stretched themselves or felt brave. They were proud of times that they had made people laugh or smile and were proud of each other for doing the same.

It is wonderful to be part of a community that participates in activities like this one that promote both character education and service learning.

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Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.

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