Mt. Hood Climb Service Day: Vose Elementary School

by Elie Doubleday

The HLC class counts as a service project because once a week it goes to Vose Elementary School. Vose is a bilingual school, so most kids are taught in both Spanish and English from a young age, but the classes HLC volunteers in are solely Spanish (though they have a block of English).

My regular class is a kindergarten class, which is awesome because the kids are so cute, but rough because little kids can be hard to understand, especially in Spanish. I find the smile and nod technique very useful when working with them.

For my Mt. Hood Climb service, I went to Vose for the whole day (we normally only go for about 30-45 minutes). Alex B. ‘16 and I were in my usual kindergarten class, and let me tell you, little kids are exhausting once you’ve spent the whole day with them. Plus, we had to be interacting with them in Spanish the whole time.

When we got there, the kids were working on writing. They had read a book about a hen planting a seed, had discussed the characters, setting, and plot, and were trying to write it down for themselves. Honestly, this seemed like a pretty impressive feat for kindergarteners. That’s a lot of critical thinking skills there. I found that more than actually helping the kids, we were working to keep them on task. They have very short attention spans. And they have lots of stories they want to tell you (here’s where the smile and nod technique is used).

English class was by far the easiest, though coming up with something unfamiliar to draw proved to be a challenge when they were working on vocab (unfamiliar being the vocab word here) (how do you draw something if it’s unfamiliar to you? Isn’t that impossible?). Math class was fine because they already knew how to do the math and we just helped them by holding up fingers so they could add 4 and 2.

By far, the most rewarding part of the day was recess. They have two, and the first wasn’t very eventful. However, at the beginning of the second, a little girl came up to me and asked me to run with her. Once one child engaged with me, they all would. They were beyond excited to have big kids around who were willing to play with them. They desperately wanted to show off their ability to swing across the monkey bars or climb the play structure or just show how fast they could run.

I constantly had multiple kids tugging at my arms asking me to come watch what they could do. And they’d be so excited when I’d praise them. And just as rewarding were the kids who were unafraid to ask for help getting down from the structure, getting onto the swing, or making it across the monkey bars. This is when I felt the most useful. I was helping kids accomplish something they obviously wanted to, but yet were unable to on their own. It felt awesome to be able to give them the satisfaction of an accomplishment. And by the end of the day, none of them wanted us to go.