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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Jessi Brown, PHS service learning teacher, received a national award

  • Doing something you love and getting paid for it is already wonderful, but getting a national award for it is not only the frosting on the cake, it’s a big scoop of ice cream as well.



    That was Jessi Brown’s reaction to receiving a Promising Practices award from the Character Education Partnership during the 19th National Forum on Character Education, held Nov. 1-4 in Washington, D.C.

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  • Doing something you love and getting paid for it is already wonderful, but getting a national award for it is not only the frosting on the cake, it’s a big scoop of ice cream as well.
    That was Jessi Brown’s reaction to receiving a Promising Practices award from the Character Education Partnership during the 19th National Forum on Character Education, held Nov. 1-4 in Washington, D.C.
    A total of 297 Promising Practices, effective strategies that develop good character in K-12 students, were selected for recognition from 537 applications. Recipients represented 30 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five nations.
    “I felt humbled by the recognition of my efforts on a program I truly believe in and was honored to be able to represent Pittsburg High School on a national level,” she said.
    Brown is service learning facilitator for students at Elm Acres Youth and Family Services and has her classroom at that facility, but is employed by PHS.
    “Service learning is about using school subjects in real-life applications to meet a community need,” she said. “It’s a holistic approach at teaching school subjects.”
    For example, Brown noted that when students put in a garden on Elm Acres grounds, a lot of science and math were involved in the process.
    “Service learning is more about the process than the project,” she said. “It’s about a 30-year-old concept and can be done with all age groups. There is no age group or category who can’t benefit from it.”
    Brown said she typically has a total of about 20 students in sixth to 12th grades. All of them are Elm Acres residents who are in state custody
    “I work with the boys in the morning and the girls in the afternoon,” she said. “It’s fascinating. The girls always want to build, and the boys want to sew.”
    Her students do a wide range of projects. The key is that the students pick the projects.
    “It has to be their idea, not mine,” Brown said.  “We set out a group project, and students can also do an individual project.”
    Her students made a sampler quilt as part of a study of the history and tradition of quilting in the United States. They have also made tote bags and blankets.
    “One boy said, ‘I’ve got a hole in my pants, can I fix that?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely I can teach you to do that’,” Brown said.
    Much of what they make is donated to CHOICES. Students also made “crazy cases,” colorful pillow cases for the Via Christi Cancer Center to brighten the day for patients undergoing treatment.
    “It’s great that these kids want to help other kids like them,” Brown said. “Many of them have been on the receiving end, and now they have the opportunity to learn what it’s like to be on  the giving end.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She said the classes do a lot of recycling or upcycling, including making coloring books and crayons for children in need.
    “The kids took stubs of old crayons and melted them to make new crayons,” Brown said.
    A current project is hatching eggs for a family.
    “We had 40 eggs and now we have 39,” Brown said. “We were candling one of the eggs and it dropped and broke. That was sad, but it was a teachable moment about embryonic development and so on.”
    Fussing over the eggs also teaches something very important.
    “The kids learn about caring and compassion,” Brown said. “They have to learn to be responsible for something else. A lot of my kids have kids, so this nurturing is important for them.”
    She and the students have visited residents at Carrington Place, working on sculpture and clay modeling with them, making seed paper with them, teaching them to play Wii and just visiting.
    “When the kids left there, they had smiles as big as their faces,” Brown said.  “I’m hoping we’ll be able to go back there.”
    They’ve also done some landscaping on the Elm Acres grounds.
    “There was just dirt in front of the boys’ house before we landscaped it,” she said.  “Todd Biggs and the kids did some landscaping between the two houses. Todd came up with the plan and the kids did it, and they did a fantastic  job.”
    She said that Biggs, a Pittsburg USD 250 Board of Education member, has been very supportive and helpful with the service learning program.
    “We made personal notepads for all the school board members to thank them for letting us do this,” Brown said. “The kids had to do a questionnaire to find out each board members interests.”
    Blue Ribbon Farm and Home has been very helpful with the garden, she added.
    “We also go to Greenbush about seven times a year,” Brown said.
    She said that her classes are in some ways like being in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, with the ultimate aim of helping build good citizens.
    “And everything we make, we give away to someone else who needs it,” Brown said.
    She grew up near Springfield, Mo., and, not surprisingly, was in Girl Scouts. Brown and her husband moved to southeast Kansas a few years ago.
    “This will be my third year here in December,” she said. “Service learning is perfect for me. I went into education because I thought it’s the basement of making a better world.”

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