Koshkonong Trails Students Bring Holiday Cheer to Local Seniors

Koshkonong Trails teacher delivering ornaments to seniors in the communityg
Raquel Parish, middle school teacher at Koshkonong Trails, delivers ornaments made by her students

What was your driving question?

How might we promote local community engagement, citizenship, and responsibility?

Grades Involved

7th and 8th

What PBE principles were highlighted in this project?

Project Description

Middle school students from Koshkonong Trails, a project-based charter school in Cambridge, Wisconsin, were looking for ways to connect with their community under the constraints of COVID. It is one thing to appreciate our place, but what responsibilities do we have to our place? What is our role in helping it function properly during uniquely challenging times? The economic, cultural, and ecological systems that drive our place must be understood and cultivated to ensure our place thrives. In this unit, we used exploration, interviews, and direct investigation in order to fully understand how our place operates. Armed with this knowledge, we worked to promote engagement, citizenship, and responsibility in our place by designing, creating, and delivering “holiday cheer” to our local seniors. Students designed ornaments, holiday cards, and a holiday video, which were delivered to 500 seniors in six different senior living centers. We realized that even during a pandemic, we could connect with those in most need of connection.
globe ornaments with feathers designed by students
Some of the ornaments made by the students featured globes covered with guinea hen feathers.

How did this positively impact the community? How was it shared?

The goal was to build an intergenerational community while the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep people physically apart. Reaction from senior living facilities was positive, with residents eagerly anticipating receiving ornaments. “They were so excited,” Parish said. “They’re just craving that attention.” “There are many more senior homes around us than I knew of,” 8th grader Hyja Wisdom said. “It was really nice when we got to reach out and talk to them.” She said she hoped they now feel “more included with the community.”
student making holiday ornament
A Koshkonong student hard at work crafting holiday joy for local seniors

Reflection: What was the biggest challenge? What was the most rewarding aspect of this project?

The challenge this year has been to translate hands-on learning, and the forging of community ties, to distance learning. This project offered a way for students to connect with the community during a time of distance. “Allowing that process to unfold as it did, I think teaches them a lot,” Parish said. “Perseverance, determination, follow-through,” were some of the learning benefits, she added. As one of her students reflected, “We are bringing joy to those who for health reasons may not be able to see or be with their family right now.”

Any advice for a teacher or student that is implementing a PBE project for the first time?

“Keep an open mind when trying to come up with ideas.”

“Don’t overwhelm yourself, and remember that everyone makes mistakes. Just keep trying.”

“Schedule and plan out how you will do this. Follow the plan. Do your research. Have fun with it.”