How Else Can We Teach Sharing?
Many years ago when I was working on an essay, “The Right Place, Nursery School in the Twenty-First Century,” to be included in the book, Choosing the Right Educational Path for Your Child, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), I ran into a former student from our nursery school who had just graduated from college. While catching up, I mentioned the chapter that I was working on about the Little Folks School. Without hesitation, he replied, "oh, I hope that you are going to include something about “Sandwich Patrol,” that was one of my favorite activities!"
"Sandwich Patrol" which it was affectionally called by the children, was a monthly community service project that involved the students and their parents making sandwiches for the homeless.
For young children making a sandwich is like a construction project. Applying various ingredients to bread, putting sandwiches into ziplock baggies and counting the results of their labor is a multi-task project, loaded with learning. However, the biggest lesson learned by all involved was that one of the rules of our school and one of the rules of life is that we take care of each other, whether that is a family member, a friend, or a member of our community.
This project grew from the children’s occasional encounters with homeless people on the streets of Georgetown back in the early 1990’s. I would sometimes be asked for money to buy food by a homeless person, as I walked with the children to area parks. When children inquired why I was being asked for money, I explained that the people we encountered were asking for money to buy food because they did not have enough to eat.
It seemed logical that a project that involved the children making food for the homeless would give them a very concrete experience with the concept of sharing, something that every teacher strives to impart. In the case of our particular community, we had more than enough food to share with others, who may not have had enough. So in bringing the idea to parents — who would provide the ingredients and volunteer to work with children to help make the sandwiches — they wholeheartedly embraced the idea.
This approach to developing prosocial behavior is one of many projects in place at the Little Folks School, to this day four decades later. Parents and children alike continue to respond very favorably to our community service projects such as "Sandwich Patrol."
They appreciate these very real activities that provide an excellent altruistic model for young children. And like the student who had fond memories of the activity, the concept of sharing becomes an important and lasting impression.