Westminster School’s S.O.S. Day
Posted: 08 April 2019
- Communication skills
- Appreciation for diversity
- Problem solving
- Sense of responsibility
- Commitment to sustainability
- Team work
Service is an important part of the exceptional education we provide at Westminster. Our annual Year 10 ‘Spirit of Service’ Day sees all of our Year 10 students offer their services to around 20 different venues among our local community. The day takes place at the end of the school year during our alternative program week.
The planning for this activity is done by our Round Square Student Committee and the Round Square Co-ordinator and Admin Assistant over a six month period, in the run up to the event.
One of our first tasks is to reach out to the organisations we hope to work with and to get them on board with the day. Most of these organisations participated in the previous year’s event, or have a long standing relationship with the school. Initially we open up a dialogue with them by writing to them, thanking them again for their participation in last years event and to ask if we can be of assistance again this year. In this letter we ask how many students they can place and what hours they want them from and till.
On average, over 120 students are placed across 15 different activities/organisations in the city of Adelaide and its outskirts, and so the huge task of allocating students and collecting consent forms happens in the final four or five weeks. We ask that participating students indicate three preferred activities and then those students are allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
With such a large number of students off-site, in various locations the logistics of the day itself need careful planning this includes accompanying adults, food, transport and a back-up plan if an activity falls through at the last moment.
After the service day we send out thank you letters at the end of the process, and encourage all organisations to provide us with feedback on student behaviour and involvement.
The S.O.S. Day is an opportunity for our students to assist others in a selfless and giving manner to those who need their time, skills, energy and compassion. Some of the activities students can choose from are:
- Abbeyfield Marion House – Various gardening activities for assisted living residents;
- Alwyndor Nursing Home – Assisting with various aspects of resident aged care;
- Foodbank SA – Packing food hampers for distribution for Christmas;
- Gemtree Wines – Eco trail – gardening and weed control;
- Resthaven Marion – Assisting with various aspects of resident aged care;
- Meals on Wheels – Assist with the preparation of the meals to then be delivered to various locations;
- Down Syndrome SA – various admin tasks and interaction with youth with Down Syndrome;
- Westcare Homeless – Serving lunch meals and general cleaning tasks;
- Oaklands Park Lodge (Southern Cross Care) – Assisting with various aspects of resident aged care;
- Can Do Group – Learn about hearing and sign language, assist with event preparation;
- One & All – Maintenance on ship and various other outdoor tasks;
- Westminster Christmas Lights – Helping to prepare for the Christmas Lights display at school – a large annual event, free to the community;
- Westminster ELC – Assist with ELC students and various classroom tasks;
- Westminster Prep School – Assist with Prep students and various classroom tasks;
- Westminster Farm – Gardening and various outdoor activities such as fence painting; and
- Westminster Magical Christmas Tour – Year 10 Music students performing at two aged care facilities.
All students meet at school as per normal in the morning, but are allowed to wear casual clothes appropriate to the activity they are involved in. We then gather together in a large group, near where the buses are parked and one group at a time is checked off by the Round Square co-ordinator and Admin assistant.
Staff who are driving a small bus for their group usually leave first and then other groups in cars head to their venues. We have several school cars which can be booked also for this purpose.
Some students meet at the venue with the supervising teacher as some sessions start before school time.
Before the day, I speak to the students about the purpose of the day and ensure they understand clearly the expectations whilst they are out in the community.
There is a staff member for each activity so they are also there to remind students of behaviour and involvement.
Most activities start at 9.30am and the students are then either bussed back to school by our normal finishing time of 3.30pm or if they have permission can leave directly from the venue.
One of the biggest challenges of the service day is cost involved in covering staff and transport.
Finding enough staff to cover the groups can be challenging as we generally send at least one member of staff with each group and some of the larger groups require two staff. Given enough notice and the ability to pick the activity the majority of staff are very keen to help out and respond positively.
Planning begins in the middle of the year and a big challenge is the collection of consent forms and collation of preferences. This can take some chasing up with both students and parents. Thankfully the general cohort of Year 10s are excited about the day and enjoy their activities so lack of engagement is not normally an issue.
Not only is it a great opportunity for students and staff to get out of their normal school environment but our students get a really good sense of achievement from helping others. This in turn impacts our local community directly and gives our students a chance to reflect on their own lives and be grateful for what they have. Although a number of our students are involved in Service activities throughout the year, for many this is their only contribution to their local community and helps to develop a real sense of responsibility.
Through this hands-on learning experience, our students develop a variety of core life skills including communication skills, an appreciation for diversity, courage and compassion.
Long term outcomes
We have been running this activity for several years now and it is an important part of our end of year program. Both students and staff benefit from this and are always keen to participate. Last year we had all students involved and not a single absence on the day. We have planned to run it again this year in early December.
- Planning is the key, give yourself at least six months to get things organised
- Maintain good relationships with your third party organisations
- Send thank you letters at the end of the process, and encourage all organisations to provide us with feedback on student behaviour and involvement.
by Julia Chukwuani, Round Square and Exchanges Co-ordinator, Westminster School