Metcalf Elementary students from Kim Carthans’ third-grade class had the opportunity to learn about civic engagement while making cards for Carle BroMenn Medical Center.
Sean Thornton, a graphic designer at Illinois State University, and Angela Sweet-Thornton were interested in getting their kids involved in civic engagement, so they decided to look at the Center for Civic Engagement’s (CCE) website.
“We were looking for some activities at home that required us to turn off the TV and put down devices,” said Sweet-Thornton. “Sean scanned CCE’s civic engagement opportunity list, and the Carle Card Ministry was the perfect solution. It offered a creative outlet as well as the chance to engage in something truly altruistic and empathic.”
Shortly after they had made their first batch of cards is when Sweet-Thornton thought that this could be a good idea for a class project for their daughter’s class. It was then that they brought the idea up to their daughter’s third-grade teacher, Kim Carthans. The students were learning about superhero characteristics in class, so it seemed like the perfect time to talk about civic engagement and start a volunteer project like the card ministry.
“I emailed the teacher and challenged their class to create cards. We offered the paper and envelopes, and they met the challenge with lots of creativity and thoughtfulness,” said Sweet-Thornton. “The teacher, Mrs. Carthans, was very encouraged at the idea and the enthusiasm the class had for this project. She set up a time for our family to join the class in the school garden to create cards, and afterwards we accompanied the class on a field trip to CCE that Mrs. Carthans had organized.”
The class had aimed to create 100 cards for the Carle BroMenn Medical Center, but with the help of the students and families of the students, they were able to make 120 cards to send to the medical center.
“The card ministry serves many different purposes,” said Sue Seibring, manager of volunteer services at Carle BroMenn Medical Center. “Providing a sweet card from a young person might be the best thing that the patient receives on that particular day. We want to provide the best hospital experience possible. Offering encouragement and a kind, ‘thinking of you’ message will hopefully lift the spirits and aid in the holistic healing process.”
After making their cards this fall, Carthans’ third-grade class walked to CCE and learned all about the importance of civic engagement in the community. Through the experience, they were also able to understand the impact they had on the patients at Carle BroMenn Medical Center.
“It is important for students to learn about civic engagement because we believe that one person can make a difference,” said Carthans. “One of our favorite class poems by Angela Meijer is called ‘You Matter.’ In her poem, she reminds us that our actions define our impact.
“Civic responsibilities are actions that we choose to do. Thus, civic engagement can make a difference in our lives as well as the lives of others. After our visit, each student-superhero joined their class group, which we call houses, and brainstormed civic engagement projects that they would like to participate in doing this school year.”