Monday, September 19, 2011

Serve the City (with kids!)

Last Saturday there was a Berlin-wide campaign called "Berlin räumt auf" ("Berlin cleans up"), which called on citizens to take part in various social projects to improve the quality of life in our city.  We took part through a group called "Serve the City" and decided that it would be a great opportunity to have our children involved as well.  (Serve the City is an international group in many European cities.)

If you have read my blog very much, then you know that teaching children social responsibility is a subject very close to my heart. Like everything else, children learn by doing and can take part in social projects as long as the activities are within their developmental range.

Through Serve the City we had a choice of three projects to be involved in:
- picking up trash
- planting greenery in front of an apartment
- serving coffee and cake to the homeless

When we explained to the children that we wanted to take part in this as a family, we allowed the children to choose what we would do. ("Follow the child's interests" is a pillar of the Montessori philosophy and I have found it to work well.)  They immediately chose collecting trash and planting greenery.

Through the BSR, Berlin's sanitation company, we received gloves and tongs to pick up the trash. My son loved doing this, although he said it was hard work. My daughter had an attack of bad mood when we arrived and did not want to participate, so she watched for a while as I picked up trash. Then, she decided that she wanted to do it as well.

My son putting trash into the blue bags.

Daddy and son hard at work.  
After about a half hour, we moved onto planting the small garden in front of a local apartment building. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is a law that requires trees to be planted in front of each apartment building.  Unfortunately, these are often used as dog toilets without being cleaned up and the beautiful sight of the tree is spoiled by canine poo.  Our goal was to plant something to make the space a little more beautiful and deter the dog owners.  

Our friend, Christine, who was the mastermind behind the Serve the City project.
Here my daughter breaks up the hard ground to make room for the plants.
My son and Daddy placing the new plants in the ground.
We covered everything with a layer of fresh soil.

Our whole group meeting up to talk about the day's events. 
The whole day was a great experience for our kids.  We ate ice cream together later to celebrate our hard work.  These were small steps, but they go along way in helping my kids to learn social responsibility. i know that they will think twice before they throw something on the ground in the future and that they will be more aware of the trash problem in Berlin.  Also, they are learning how to take initiative to solve problems instead of just waiting for someone else to do it for them.

Just like in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, small steps can produce big results in the future . . . 

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