Sixth graders at City of Lakes Waldorf School study the customs and traditions surrounding chivalry for their Knighting Project. The project involves them in the community service to help draw out their most noble qualities and help them live up to those qualities every day.
To prepare them for the project, Ms. Steeves offered them several volunteer opportunities throughout the year to help them feel at ease in new environments. In the fall, the students helped senior citizens rake leaves with Neighborhood Improvment Program (NIP). “It was a hoot,” said Ms. Steeves. “They had so much fun.”
Another volunteer opportunity came through Allysen Hoberg, a class parent. She works at People Responding in Social Ministry (PRISM). The organization provides food, clothing and financial assistance to families dealing with financial hardship. Each Thursday, Ms. Hoberg brought 3-4 students to PRISM to spend the morning helping in whatever way they were needed. Students unloaded food from trucks, helped stock shelves, assisted people there shopping, or met with PRISM staff members. “They had to make up the morning lesson material they missed, so it was a true gift of their time,” said Ms. Steeves. “Most of them wanted to go again,” she added with a smile.
There are three components to the Knighting Project. First, each student completes 3 to 5 independently selected community service sessions. Secondly, they reflect on a quality that is a challenge for them at home and make a plan to improve it. “Sometimes it’s orderliness, or generosity,” says Ms. Steeves. They draft a contract with their parents to hold them accountable, and Ms. Steeves checks in to see if they are making progress. Thirdly, each student chooses an adult they admire because of their personal qualities. They interview that adult and create a written account of their conversation.
The project culminates in May with a ceremony at the stunning Lakewood Cemetery Chapel. The historic Chapel is a fitting setting for acknowledging the student’s most noble qualities. It features a stunning Byzantine mosaic, constructed in 1910 with more than ten million glittering tiles. The stained glass windows circling chapel dome create a functional sundial which tell the time of day and season. The mosaics on the walls depict Love, Hope, Faith and Memory.
In this truly special setting, the students share a song they’ve been refining over several months, often a haunting Gregorian chant. Then, their teacher stands and shares a reflection on each student. She describes their character and the qualities they have been refining in their time together. And finally, Mr. Burnstein leads the students in taking an oath for modern day knights.
As a modern day knight,
I will strive to champion,
What is right,
What is good,
What is true.
What a powerful reminder for our sixth grade students and all the lives that intersect with theirs!