Part one of two from Emily Sterling, Middle School Program Director, on service-learning projects and gratitude.



As the Director of Camp Fire’s Middle School Program, I sometimes regret not being with students every single day. I loved being site staff, teaching and problem-solving with the best young people around.

I do my best to still spend lots of time with students and staff, and this month I had the great fortune of tagging along on a few field trips and service-learning projects. Here are some highlights from those experiences.

Lane Middle School students wanted to check out America’s biggest bookstore, so we took them to Powell’s. Most of them had never been, and they were “stoked” to see so many books in one place!

After getting a tour of the building, we headed outside to wait for the bus. A street performer was playing guitar on the sidewalk, and several of the students noticed him. Tentatively, one approached him and pulled a dollar out of her pocket. He nodded in appreciation. Another student stepped forward to toss his only change into the guitar case. Then another followed, doing the same. And another. And another. Soon every middle-schooler had given what they had to a man in need.

This wasn’t something discussed in class, and there’s not really a lesson plan that can teach students, especially those who may be experiencing poverty themselves, to give to others in this way. It was powerful to see the generosity of those who don’t have a lot giving to someone with even less.

Whoever said that today’s teens can’t express empathy, I have to disagree. Camp Fire students have loads of it, and are working hard to make the world a better place for everyone.

(pictured: Camp Fire students from Lane Middle School at Powell’s City of Books in Downtown Portland)

Stay tuned for part two!