Conference teaches Shady Side Academy students about serving others

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Shady Side Academy students left the books behind in the classroom and instead were treated to a day of service learning during the middle school's first Global Action Conference Day last month.

About 230 students in grades six through eight participated in the hands-on program aimed at teaching youngsters about social issues and service efforts.

“The goal of the day was to raise awareness and educate students about social issues while coming together as a school community to impact local and global change,” said communications specialist Jen Roupe.

The guest speaker was Amiena Mahsoob, director of education programs for the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. The group was founded in 1931 to promote a deeper understanding of international issues and their relevance to the region.

Roupe said students were split into grade-level groups for educational sessions led by leaders of nonprofit organizations such as Haitian Families First, Brother's Brother and the Homeless Children's Education Fund. Then, students participated in activities to help people impacted by the issues they learned about, Roupe said.

Sixth-graders focused on Haiti, creating pictures for their peers in the poverty-stricken country as well as no-sew fleece blankets for hospital patients there.

They also played online games on websites that donate rice and other food to the United Nations World Food Program.

Seventh-graders listened to issues affecting Africa and crafted soccer balls from recycled materials, packed donated sports equipment to ship and made cards for children there.

They also made care packages with toiletries to send for disaster relief.

Roupe said eighth-grade students focused on families in the region, with activities that included boxing canned goods for local food banks, making holiday cards for senior citizen shut-ins and participating in a simulated game about choices people living in poverty have to make.

“After, students met to reflect on what they had learned and generate ideas for how to continue their service efforts for the rest of the year,” Roupe said.

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