St. Margaret’s 9th annual Literacy Day on Thursday fused a celebration of reading, writing, speaking and listening with the launch of an all-school service learning initiative to help fellow Californians.
Central to the day’s activities was the children’s book A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams. The book depicts a family who loses their possessions in a fire, and a young girl in the family who collects coins to help replace lost valuables. In a cross-divisional gathering organized by St. Margaret’s Service Learning Team, Upper School advisories met with Tartans in the Preschool, Lower School and Middle School to read the book, reflect on its meaning and brainstorm together how its message can be applied to help others in need.
Inspired by the book, St. Margaret’s started an all-school coin drive, which will last until the spring All-School Eucharist on March 28. The coins will be donated to wildfire relief efforts of the L.A. Episcopal Diocese and Northern California Episcopal Diocese to assist communities devastated by the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.
To help St. Margaret’s students better understand the authentic needs of those communities, an important component of service learning, two special guests spoke to the student body during a special all-school gathering in Pasternack Field House on Thursday. Casey Taylor, executive director of Achieve Charter School in Paradise, Calif., spoke of the hardships that have impacted the lives of the town’s residents after the Camp Fire destroyed thousands of homes, schools and businesses and caused deaths, a total loss of possessions and a dramatic interruption of life. Achieve was one of several schools in Paradise that burned.
Also speaking was Eleni Pappas, assistant chief for the Los Angeles County Fire Department and a St. Margaret’s parent, who also gave a compelling speech about the devastation caused by the Woolsey Fire, its unpredictable spread and how much property was devastated in a short amount of time.
Together, Ms. Taylor and Capt. Pappas explained the tragic outcomes of the wildfires, and what the victims need as they start rebuilding their lives including emotional support and financial resources to replace items that were lost.
“The powerful stories shared by Ms. Taylor and Capt. Pappas helped our students better understand the impact of the wildfires, and develop empathy toward our fellow Californians who were so deeply affected by them,” said Ryan Dahlem, assistant head of school for strategic initiatives. “We are truly grateful for their willingness to share their perspective.”
The launch of the service-learning initiative was part of a full slate of Literacy Day activities, organized by the St. Margaret’s Library staff. Some of the activities included:
Dress as a Book Character
Many Lower School students and faculty dressed as their favorite book characters, from Dr. Seuss characters to Harry Potter to Waldo.
Battle of the Books
Students in grades 4 and 5 who were part of the Lower School BOB Club participated in the Battle of the Books competition in Sillers Hall in front of classmates. Questions were asked based on the 20-book BOB reading list to the teams, receiving points for correctly identifying the title and author of the book.
What Feeds Your Hungry Heart?
Lower School students shared their presentations related to the Literacy Day theme of “Feeding a Hungry Heart.”