We seek to graduate students who are active participants in their communities and who listen, learn, advocate, partner and take action to improve it.
Service Learning is embedded within the K-6 classroom curriculum and is a lens through which students learn. Social action projects follow the guiding principles of the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design and incorporate leadership, research, and 21st Century Skills including critical and creative thinking. Although projects vary in terms of skill development, they all incorporate experiential learning that promotes inquiry, investigation, discovery, and reflection while also connecting to the Carlthorp School mission and Code of Conduct.

Service Learning Projects

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    Students study the variety of factors that contribute to homelessness and housing insecurity through a unit that incorporates both literature and journaling. After building a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with homelessness, students visit Upward Bound House, a local organization that provides housing, financial assistance, food, and other resources to people in need. During this field trip, students become familiar with the infrastructure of the Upward Bound House program and what they can do to help both collectively as a class and individually. In partnership with the P.E. department, students then begin training to complete a jump rope Jumpathon, in which they jump for pledges. After incorporating counting and totaling of the pledges into their math lessons, the total money raised is used to purchase items to support a family moving into the Upward Bound House apartments.

    Students in grades 5 and 6 learned about The Nest in Tijuana, a play and imagination-based preschool that provides educational services to children and their guardians awaiting relocation. The students are visited by a children’s book author, who walks them through the structure of a quality picture book. They then brainstorm, write, and illustrate stories that include moral lessons and universal themes. Bilingual students translate the stories and a committee of editors choose the final pieces to be featured in Carlthorp’s Spanish language magazine El Mundo. Copies of El Mundo are sent to The Nest, along with props to help bring the stories to life. 

    One long-standing tradition is the Kindergarten and 6th Grade Buddies Program. Our oldest students welcome and bond with the newest members of our school community through a series of activities and crafts throughout the school year. These include Bingo, making placemats for Thanksgiving, and writing Valentines for Vets. Last year’s Monster Project added on a few new aspects to this special relationship: Mystery Readers who shared stories focused on different character traits, a writing project planned and written together, and a very special surprise made by the 6th graders in their Art class for their K buddies. Through the sharing of these experiences, we aim to build the necessary emotional intelligence around empathy to help our students make human connections. The 6th graders model for the youngest students what it means to be a Carlthorpian.

    • Civics and Change Club (5th-6th):
      • Students with a passion for politics and community building meet over the course of the year to learn about the civic system, beginning with a macro view at the national level and moving to understand the constructs of their city and neighborhood communities. This club culminates in a spring action project driven by the students’ interest and also provides them with a way to partner with students their age from other local schools. 
    • School of Dreams Pen Pal Project (1st-6th): 
      • In partnership with the Children of War Foundation, Carlthorp students are paired with pen pals from the School of Dreams in Jordan. Students exchange profiles, letters and connect via Zoom to get to know each other. 
    • Black History Month Gratitude Notes (K-6th): 
      • In connection to this year’s theme of Black Pioneers in Medicine, students wrote notes of gratitude to local healthcare workers in their community. Notes were paired with a small gift of handmade lotion from a local Black-owned business called yourDestiny Essentials to help repair dry and damaged skin underneath the PPE required to be worn during the pandemic. 
    • Family Groups (K-6th):
      • This monthly activity aims to connect students from every grade level with faculty and staff across the school in meaningful and interactive ways. Each month’s lesson is led by the group’s 5th grade student and connects to a tenet of the Carlthorp School Code of Conduct. 
    • Day of Service (Whole Community):
      • An annual event in which students, parents, faculty and staff, and alumni all come together to dedicate time to serving the local community.
    • Coming to America Interviews and Presentations (5th): 
      • In conjunction with their writing and history curriculum, students interviewed members of the Carlthorp community whose families immigrated to the United States. Students detailed what they learned in presentations shared with their grade level; finding patterns, similarities and differences between historical and modern day immigration. 
    • Washington D.C. and Iowa Caucus Journalism Partnership (6th):
      • 6th grade students spent the school year reading, researching, and writing about a variety of challenges in their community. These topics have included: Climate Change, LGBTQ+ rights, Immigration, Animal Welfare, and Early Childhood Education. The highlight in the spring is a trip to Washington D.C. coordinated by Carlthorp School partner KidUnity. Students met with advocacy groups, politicians, journalists, and more to discuss their target issues. Upon returning home, students continued their education through an action project in their community.  
      • 6th grade students and Carlthorp School alumni traveled as journalists to the Iowa caucuses in 2016 and 2020 to interview presidential candidates, campaign managers, voters, and more. We invite you to visit the blog to read about their experience in 2020: www.csiniowa.org

Photos of Service Learning