Our Fourth Graders were charged this year with finding and executing a community service project. Luckily, we needed to look no farther than a small City park about a block from our school. Lincoln Square Park honors our 16th president with a monument erected by Lowell school children in the early 1900s and a small and pleasant green space in a neighborhood surrounded by businesses and multi-family houses right off one of the main roads in and out of the City of Lowell.
Several weeks ago, students cleaned the park of a winter’s worth of trash and planted a few flowers that we were able to purchase through a student penny collection. It was a great experience for our kids. That day they became park overseers – they are quite passionate when they go back to the park and find a dropped cup or wrapper.
One of our community partners, Washington Savings Bank and Vichtcha Kong, learned of our project and gifted the students with a generous donation. This week, we put that donation to use. We re-stained the 6 park benches and added more annuals to the monument area. And the result?
Well, the neighbors surrounding the Park are also getting into the excitement of restoring Lincoln Square Park into a slice of green community space. Yes, there is still trash but it unofficially seems less.
As we were staining benches, cars on nearby Chelmsford Street honked and shouted encouragement to our students. A nearby business owner came over to help me open a container of stain and when the two of us didn’t have the right tool to get the lid off, she involved the “guys” from a nearby car repair shop. Grandparents wheeling babies stopped to ask us what we were doing and thanked us. Sometimes we just got a smile or a nod, but the appreciation was loud and clear. And for the first time in my memory, we saw several folks just sitting in the park enjoying being outdoors on a pleasant mid-June day. It made me wonder: isn’t this what the Park’s designers intended?
When a school becomes collaborator with the community, just look at what can happen! In addition to being centers for learning, schools must be good neighbors.