The Power of Purposeful Action

One hallmark of a Parker education is our belief that all students benefit from an education that is rooted in purposeful action. Our core values of ethical awareness and social responsibility often guide this learning in the direction of service projects that encourage our students to explore the world outside their classrooms. We believe that by giving students a chance to take action as they learn about the world, they will grow into adults who take responsibility for their communities.

Service learning is woven into the fabric of our Parker community. We highlighted one example back in March, with our K-4th grade read-a-thon that raised over $3000 to benefit local Albany charity The RED Bookshelf. Today we would like to feature two ongoing projects that are happening in our middle school: The Lantern Project and our Butterfly Effect Projects.

The Lantern Project

Piloted by our middle school math teacher, Rose Nolan, The Lantern Project is rooted in teaching our 7th and 8th graders concepts of geometry through the designing and building their own paper lanterns. However, the true richness of this project is that it extends beyond academic learning, challenging students to also explore various cultures and their needs through the lens of social awareness. Ultimately, our 7th and 8th graders will sell their paper lanterns to raise awareness and funds for a community improvement project of their choice through the non-profit organization, Lantern Projects.

As Rose explains, “I wanted to connect math with some kind of social awareness project. My goal was not only to show the kids that math can be applied to the real world, but also to give them an opportunity to do work that could help out another community. I was already planning to teach geometry to this group, and I thought this would be a more interesting and authentic way to learn about concepts like polyhedra, angles, and volume.”

For the past few weeks, 7th and 8th graders have been working diligently to both construct their lanterns AND research a country and community improvement project of their choice. In the process, they are exercising all the resilience, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that distinguish Parker students. As Rose reflects, “We’ve had a LOT of trial and error. I had one student that built twelve pentagons that he initially held together with tape before he was ready to glue…and it fell and broke apart. He was in tears. We all offered to help, but he wanted the project to be his own, so he took some supplies home and rebuilt the whole thing. Every student is building their lantern in their own way. It’s so fascinating to see how they approach the construction process differently, who is meticulous about what, and in which ways. They have all done SO MUCH testing, trying different techniques, getting frustrated, adjusting, and trying again. Each project is so representative of who each student is.”

When our students are finally finished with their lanterns, they will write an informative, persuasive essay about the project they selected, including information about the community, culture, history, and why this particular project is needed in this part of the world. Ultimately, the 7th and 8th graders plan to use these essays as pitches to sell their lanterns within the Parker community, with proceeds going to the Lantern Projects chosen by each student. Please stay tuned for more details on how you can help support this project and our amazing students!
Butterfly Effect Projects

This week, Parker 7th graders embarked on an important and meaningful signature Parker experience to change the world. CBS News Correspondent and Parker parent, Steve Hartman, visited the class on Wednesday to launch a project fueled by a crucial resource that the world needs more of: kindness. Steve was inspired by Chris Rosati, a man diagnosed with ALS, who wanted to spread kindness by giving people $50 with only one rule: Do something kind.

Each 7th grader received their $50 mini-grants for Parker’s Butterfly Effect Project, named after the idea that small causes can create large effects. Parker is now in its fifth year of running the impactful Butterfly Effect grant project. Previous years’ classes developed projects such as a walk-a-thon to benefit hunger awareness, a fund drive for Books for Soldiers, and raising money for school supplies that a former student then delivered to a village near his extended family in Africa. This funding and trust in their abilities is a true show of confidence in our students!

Stay tuned to learn how our 7th graders spread kindness in our community again this year with their grant money. You can also watch Steve Hartman’s original story about Chris Rosati, the man who first set this beautiful idea into motion.