By Brenna R. Kelly
Jackie Williams wants her students at the Kentucky School for the Blind to grow up to be caring adults, to think about others and their struggles. So when a class discussion about New Years’ resolutions turned into a discussion about being better people, Williams went with it.
“We started talking about different ways we could help others,” said Williams, who teaches students with moderate to severe disabilities.
That led the class of five students to think about their school’s city. The students brainstormed and researched various issues facing Louisville.
“Homelessness was the thing they could relate to more than any of the other things,” she said. Williams and the class talked about what it would be like to not know where you were going to sleep each night.
“The more they learned about homelessness, the more questions they asked and the more they wanted to help,” she said.
So Williams created a project-based learning opportunity in which her students created care packages for some of the men and women living on Louisville’s streets. The students dubbed it Project Care.
With Williams help, her students identified items that a homeless person might need and then chose items to ask people to donate. Williams made a flyer about the project, asking for donations of socks, packaged crackers, toothpaste, soap, hats, blankets and other items.
Williams posted the flyer at school, on her Facebook page and on Twitter. Some of her students’ parents also posted flyers at their work places, she said.
As the project went on, Williams tried to help her students understand homelessness by talking about living outside whenever the class went outdoors.
“We would talk about how they would feel if they didn’t have a toboggan to wear or a coat, so I tried to connect it to real-life experiences,” she said.
As the donations started coming in, students began to understand the concept of caring and giving even more, she said.
“They wanted to keep some of items and we had to talk about how there were people who really need it,” Williams said.
After the items were collected, the students sorted them by type. The students’ parents then packed the bags. Using donated backpacks and duffle bags, the group created 55 care packages.
The students also created original art with the words “We Care” and placed them in each bag.
Williams worked with a small local church that has a homeless outreach program to distribute the bags. She hopes to get some feedback from the church that she can share with her students.
Because of positive response from the students, Williams hopes to expand the project schoolwide next year. Kentucky Department of Education State Schools Liaison Emma Riley said all students at the school could benefit from the project.
“Project Care is an outstanding example of education beyond the general curriculum,” Riley said. “Ms. Williams is teaching her students characteristics that will last a lifetime: empathy, respect and compassion.”
Williams believes that all students at the school could benefit from what her students learned by helping Louisville’s homeless.
“I hope they learned that even though you are just one person, you can reach quite a few people as long as you just put a little effort into it and share some compassion and caring,” she said. “I have five students and they are potentially reaching 55 people, if not more than that.”
Williams said she stressed to her students that they made a big impact on other people’s lives.
“I think it helped them be a little more caring,” she said, “and we really focus on that, whether or not we are being a caring friend.”
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