“Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.” - Bahá’u’’láh
“Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” - Bahá’u’lláh
As part of Taking Moral Initiative (TMI) classes, Grade 9 students worked throughout the year on a service project in the community of Vila do Boa in São Sebastião. The project, known as “Foundations of Unity,” culminated in a morning of fun on May 21.
“TMI classes help students develop important skills and qualities enabling them to transform the reality in which they find themselves,” said Ms. Mary Aune, TMI teacher. “The method promotes individual reflection on one’s potential and on his or her role in bringing about necessary change in society.”
During the planning phase, students defined their motivation to carry out the activities in Vila do Boa. “We thought that, besides building the physical space where they would have their arts classes, we wanted to do more for the community. So we designed music and arts workshops and other activities,” said student, Daniel Parente.
Each student had the opportunity to choose how they would contribute to the project. “Communication wasn’t good at first, but we made a plan to integrate everyone’s ideas and skills by listening and consulting,” said Jessica Chang. “My idea was to teach some Chinese to local children. Originally, I thought of teaching them the names of fruits and food, but ended up teaching parts of the body through song,” she said.
During their previous visit, in November 2015, students organized workshops on storytelling, painting, planting and dancing. From then on, they began a series of reflections in the classroom about what they could do with the local community. Consultation with Mr. Nivaldo Nunes, a local leader who offers free art lessons to the local children and youth, was indispensable and a valuable addition to capturing perceptions and background. In one of these moments of reflection, students came up with the idea of building a 6 x 6 meter brick-covered area on which they would set up a tent to make shade for those taking part in the arts classes and other community activities.
Students organized themselves into committees responsible for specific tasks, such as providing food, face painting, photography, interviews, and building. They also created a website in which they describe the project and share photographs. The teacher facilitated and gave support to students so that they would take initiative and make the project successful.
According to Ms. Neryangela Samoori, Coordinator of Moral Education, student participation on Saturdays, outside regular school hours, is a strong indicator of their commitment to the project. “Both in November and in May, over 50% of students volunteered to take part. Many of those who were not able to attend were, nonetheless, engaged in collecting materials and providing snacks, effectively taking part in planning.”
Ms. Samoori stressed that community service projects sponsored by our school follow a series of criteria carefully studied inside the classroom and during the activities. “We want our students to be able to think and act systematically, in a sustainable way, and to engage in projects with a potential to grow organically.”
Learning to understand the communities, reflecting and studying possibilities, consulting with all stakeholders, valuing opinions and promoting a safe and happy environment are some of the capacities that students work on throughout their journey. Results are not immediate, but the learning gained becomes an enduring part of their lives.
Mr. Nunes celebrated the results. “The foundation turned out very nicely, and students were so happy with everything we accomplished together. I have no words to express the importance of the friendship and the care expressed by the kids from School of the Nations.”
To view the student-created website, go to: http://viladoboa.wix.com/bases-da-unidade