The Student Volunteer Army (SVA) Foundation is preparing to launch its second annual primary school programme, one of the largest mobilisations of its kind.

Individual classrooms have been designated as SVA platoons, tasked with identifying and leading volunteer projects in their local communities. The aim is to facilitate project-based learning and motivate students to think beyond the school gate – creating school-aged community guardians that connect with people and places around them.

Projects in the pipeline or already underway include hosting discos for local elderly residents, cleaning beaches, testing tsunami sirens, compiling packs for refugee families, and making blankets and books for foster children.

Launch next week

An official event to launch the 2018 programme is being held in Auckland on Thursday 8 November at Somerville Intermediate School.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, local school children and SVA founder Sam Johnson will be among those present. Johnson initiated the programme in 2017 following a request from teachers seeking to adopt the SVA project management model into their curriculum.

The ultimate aim is to encourage New Zealand’s younger generation to become future volunteers.

“We want to ensure the volunteering spirit is part of a student’s identity,” says Johnson, who was responsible for mobilising tens of thousands of student volunteers to help people affected by the devastating Canterbury earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011. The SVA originated from this movement.

“The primary school programme has been developed to facilitate a unique learning opportunity that is intergenerational, and reflective of individual school values.

“It is about stepping back and giving students the reins, letting them take collective action for the care of other people and places in the wider community.

“We continue to be amazed by the inventive projects that students are coming up with, bearing in mind that many of these kids are only seven or eight years old.”

The SVA Foundation has partnered with School Kit, which develops curriculum-based resources for teachers, to make the programme available to primary schools throughout the country.

Teachers are provided with a Volunteer Action Kit to develop an SVA primary school platoon in their own classrooms. It includes 32 job-based badges; for example, logistics officer, finance officer, storyteller, platoon leader and safety officer. Project cards provide checklists, job descriptions and ideas.

Each platoon is required to provide photos of their service project and share the impact of their work on social media.

The materials have been developed by specialist teachers and designed to integrate with Years 4-10.

Valuing local participation

Students from Syndicate A at Somerville Intermediate in Auckland, where Thursday’s launch will take place, are currently organising and brainstorming project ideas. Community and beach clean-ups at Mangemangeroa Reserve and Shelly Beach are on the agenda.

“As part of our authentic learning Journey, which facilitates real-life learning, students have been encouraged to appreciate the value of participating in their local area,” says Somerville Intermediate teacher Hayley Carter.

“Children need to accept that they don’t have to be passive in the community, and we are encouraging them to be actively engaged.

“As this dovetails with the Student Volunteer Army ethos, we felt the Primary School Programme was an ideal collaborative opportunity for our students to engage in service to the community.”

Kylie Power from School Kit says the SVA’s programme is a unique way of empowering and motivating students to get hands-on in their communities.

“The tools in the kit make it easy for students to come up with a unique idea and turn it into reality using the tried and true SVA project management model,” says Power.

“Teachers report that the beauty of the challenge lies in what it draws out of the young people themselves – how they step up, speak out, solve tricky problems, work as a team and stick to a plan.”

“Social innovation at its best”

Citycare Group, a national provider of construction, maintenance and management services, is a primary partner of the 2018 programme. The company’s support is further demonstration of its commitment to drive community engagement, as seen by its recently launched Community Guardians scheme.

A collaboration between SVA and Citycare, Community Guardians links thousands of volunteers throughout the country to ensure local projects are delivered and sustained.

“Citycare’s vision is for better people, better places and better communities,” says Nige Cottingham, EGM Strategy and Growth for Citycare Group, “so we’re excited to play our part in encouraging school kids to engage in active, community-motivated opportunities.

“I have three kids in primary school, and the SVA programme carries a host of underlying fun and educational messages that I know they will engage with and, as importantly, bring home and share with the rest of the family.

“It is social innovation at its best, and we’re delighted to be one of the initiative’s primary partners.”

New World supermarkets are also key supporters, providing $50 vouchers to each of the 1,000 participating schools.

Brendon Jones, owner of New World Howick, said he was eager to support the initiative.

“An army marches on its stomach, and little ones especially need good food and healthy drinks to keep energised as they support their local communities,” says Brendon.

“I love how kids are leading the charge and giving up their own time to do something special. We are so proud to be part of this.”

For further information on the SVA primary school programme, visit www.sva.org.nz/school-program.

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