Ring Lardner students learn valuable skills while providing service

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Community Service can be so many things, but for eight Ring Lardner Middle School students, community service currently means moving a huge mulch pile.
The students, who are between 13 and 16 years old, volunteer for the school's community service project as part of their social studies program, a program all Ring Lardner students participate in.
The mulch is spread out over the ground in the flower and plant beds outside the school's main entrance to, apart from making the entrance look pretty, prevent weeds from growing.
She said her class is a combined mix of seventh and eight graders.
Part of her students' everyday life at school therefore means choosing a different foreman among themselves each day, forming and organizing a work team, as well as dividing the work responsibilities, she said.
Jeremy Conn, who was the foreman Friday, said he enjoys being a foreman.
Kady Eden, the only girl in O'Hara's class, said although working with the boys can sometimes be tough, she doesn't mind being around boys all day.
Throughout the school year, O'Hara's students take care of the school's fish pond, oversee the school's solarium, decorate outside the school, and re-root old trees and plants.
Their aim, she said, is to complete tasks with the correct attitude while using household tools such as rakes, shovels, sprinklers, brooms and wheel barrows safely.
In addition, O'Hara incorporates math in her class by collecting paychecks she deposits into each of her students' make-believe checking account for the work they do.
O'Hara, who has been a teacher for 26 years, said her students also maintain the school's popcorn sale, where they learn valuable skills such as maintaining the popcorn machine and handling real money.
She said her experience as a teacher has taught her "everyone can learn a skill they are capable of doing," she said.
But for students to learn those skills, O'Hara said it's important to steer the students toward the jobs they have a gift for doing.
To identify those interests, her students take career tests.
O'Hara said her students take a great deal of pride in the work they do and they enjoy working outside and in the school's solarium.

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