The driving principle of the Penny Harvest service learning program is that students are empowered to decide how to help. Student leaders organize their peers to collect funds, uncover community needs and then take action to meet those needs. While participating in the program, students learn leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. They also build research, organization and critical thinking skills. Through the year Penny Harvest students gain a greater awareness of their connection to classmates, their school, and their community. The students in each school building are supported by a teacher who volunteers to facilitate the program.
The Penny Harvest follows the school calendar and it has three phases:
Phase 1, Gather Pennies: In the Fall, the entire school is engaged in classroom discussions about community and citizenship. Ultimately, each classroom must come to consensus on an issue they care passionately about and add their classroom’s “voice” to the collection of issues that have been identified by the entire school. Student representatives organize a kick-off assembly to introduce the Penny Harvest to the student body and mobilize their peers to gather pennies. As students begin gathering pennies, they connect with their family, their neighborhood and the community at large; engaging in discussions about community needs. One hundred percent of the funds collected by the students are ultimately given away in Phase 2, The Philanthropy Roundtable.
Phase 2, Philanthropy Roundtable: During the Winter students research community needs, debate causes and learn more about organizations in their community. They review proposals and award service and community grants from the funds they have collected (typically about $1,000 or more per school). Students gain a deeper awareness of community issues, becoming powerful advocates as they ultimately decide how their money can make the biggest difference.
Phase 3, Take Action / Community Service: In the Spring, students take action to address the community needs they have become so passionate about. In partnership with nonprofit organizations, students and schools use their money and their hands-on involvement to perform service projects, creatively addressing the needs of their communities.