On April 29, ACDS held its annual Day of Service where students and faculty spent the day serving their local and global communities. Throughout the school year, students dedicate a significant amount of time to community projects as service learning is an integral part of ACDS’ curriculum. The Day of Service is a foundational piece of the broader curriculum and one might argue it’s the most fun too, as students go to various community locations on a mission to serve.

ACDS started the day with its Stop Hunger Now event during which students and faculty worked together in red hairnets assembling, sealing and boxing 20,000 meals for distribution to kids around the world to end child hunger. That afternoon, students tackled additional projects including planting beans for the Capital Area Food Bank, packaging food for Blessings in a Backpack, planting flowers and picking up trash at the Alexandria waterfront, collecting food for and visiting the ALIVE food warehouse, recording books for the Wright to Read tutoring program, and improving the ACDS recycling program.

This year’s Day of Service marks the third since ACDS revitalized its service program. Since then, it has flourished into a program that not only encourages students to participate in the service projects but also nurtures students’ leadership abilities.

 

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When Zoha Siddiqui began the task of determining her Speeches & Sweets topic as an ACDS 7th grader, she never imagined where it would take her: halfway around the world opening a library at a girls’ school in a village in Pakistan.  Yet that’s where she was on March 25, helping to inaugurate the library her work over the last two years made possible.

Zoha’s passion for girls’ education in Pakistan began while researching her 2014 speech.  A trip to Pakistan in March of 2014 gave her the opportunity to further her understanding of the issue, as she traveled from school to school interviewing girls, their teachers, and politicians about why girls were not receiving an adequate education.  One of Zoha’s observations while visiting the schools was how few books the school libraries contained.  She knew she had to do something to help.

IMG_1128-2Zoha identified a girls’ school in Hair village that had a library with no desks, no chairs, no bookshelves, and only 50-100 books that were shared among 1,600 students, and began what is undoubtedly her first of many library building projects.  Zoha held a book drive at her high school, Sidwell Friends, and ACDS to collect enough books to build a new library at the school in Hair.  With help from her brother, Raza, and his 4th grade classmates, book collection boxes and posters asking for donations were placed around ACDS in the fall.  The ACDS community responded and collected approximately 1,000 books.  In total, Zoha collected around 2,500 books for the new library.

The first step in the process of transforming the library space was to repaint it, clean it out, and build desks, chairs, and bookshelves.  Once these tasks were completed, a group of teachers were trained to be the school’s librarians by a professional librarian from a local college.  During this time, the books were transported to Pakistan with the help of Pakistan’s Embassy here in D.C. and taken to the school.  A few days later, Zoha, Raza, and their parents arrived at the school.  Working alongside members of the school’s community, they organized books on the bookshelves and added an arts-and-crafts table to the space.  “I also had the opportunity to meet seventh-grade students in the school,” said Zoha. “Not only were they extremely kind and welcoming to me, but they were genuinely enthusiastic and excited for their new library. We talked about what they want to be when they grow up, and the importance of education in allowing them to reach their dreams.”IMG_0211

On March 25th, with Zoha and her family present, the library opened.  Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the students, the school plans to add a library period to the daily schedule.

“To everyone who donated and helped make this a reality, know that the addition of the library is going to give the students more reason to study and more reason to keep pursuing the careers they want to take on,” said Zoha. “An educated woman is the key to the successes of any society. She is able to make better decisions for the welfare of her children and for herself, and she is motivated to become an active leader of her community in order to make a positive change. An educated woman is intelligent, mature, and most importantly, powerful.” Your ACDS family couldn’t agree more, Zoha.

 

Opening Day! IMG_0168

Kindergarten through fourth grade students at Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS) spent the School’s Festival of Learning week walking in the shoes of others to learn empathy, compassion and more about themselves. They began each day “trying on a different pair of shoes” as they rotated through a variety of workshops. Through simulations and hands-on activities, students gained an understanding of what it might be like to be: someone who cannot see; someone who cannot hear or speak; someone who has been treated unfairly; someone who is sick; someone who is aging; someone who cannot move well; someone who doesn’t have enough food; and someone who immigrates to America.

“I really liked the workshops,” said second grader Claire Marino. “Writing with my feet was my favorite.  I learned that just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they can’t do everything that I can.”

In the afternoon, each grade participated in deeper discussion, research and engagement to develop further understanding of their topics. Fourth graders, who focused on what it is like to be someone who is aging, traveled to senior centers to conduct interviews. They then went back later in the week to share multimedia presentations created from the interviews. In first grade, students read stories about people who cannot hear and speak, learned sign language, and spoke with an ACDS alumnus who is deaf.

“At ACDS, one of our focuses has been, and will continue to be, helping our students further develop empathy and the ability to see an experience from another person’s perspective,” said Melissa Davis, Head of Lower School.  “This year’s Festival of Learning workshops gave our students the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the different strategies people employ to persevere in challenging situations.  I was exceedingly impressed with the depth of understanding and empathy our students showed in classroom conversations about the ways (big and small) that we are all able to connect to the experiences of others.”

ACDS Festival of Learning Workshop- Walking in the Shoes of Someone Who is Blind ACDS Festival of Learning Workshop- Walking the the shoes of someone who cannot move well IMG_2639