Heart To Heart Connections

First grade teacher Bev “Greenie” Greenberg is no stranger to fostering community connections within the school and the wider world. In 2016, she moved on from 10 sustained years of community work in Ghana, West Africa, where she and Parker parent Toni Hargis connected children from the two countries as they helped build a school there. Greenie is now establishing some new local connections through her recent work with I Grow Chicago (IGC).
IGC Founder Robbin Carroll originally came to Englewood to teach yoga. In 2014, she began IGC with the mission of “…growing Englewood from surviving to thriving through community connection, skill building and opportunity.” Soon after founding the organization, Carroll renovated an abandoned house in the neighborhood, which she turned into a meeting place and center for residents of the community called The Peace House.
Located at 6402 S. Honore St., The Peace House currently provides Englewood community members with a space for solace and stress relief while offering hope to the local residents through free yoga and urban farming. Since its inception, The Peace House has become a place where people from the neighborhood have come to learn, create and get to know one another.
Back in December 2016, a friend took note of the many dolls that Greenie had accumulated with the intention of delivering to students at the school in Ghana where she was volunteering. Unfortunately, Greenie could not fit them all in her luggage, so they sat in her home, unloved and unused.
The same friend told Greenie that she knew of children in Englewood who would be happy to welcome the dolls into their homes to help make their holiday season brighter. Greenie contacted Carroll shortly thereafter and brought the dolls to The Peace House to distribute to local children. From this initial exchange, Greenie began using her position as a teacher to connect Parker students with kids at The Peace House.
Last February, Greenie and her students collaborated with Lisa Nielsen’s Junior Kindergarten class to create Valentine drawings and handmade books of love for the kids of Englewood. Fourth graders from Diane Berin’s class and 5th graders from Jeff Stone’s class made bookmarks with inspiring messages on the back and gently used books were donated by Middle School students, coordinated by teacher David Fuder. The kids welcomed all of these donations with open arms and loving hearts.
This school year, Greenie wanted to continue the “love” connection she established the prior year between Parker and The Peace House and decided to lead students in creating Heart Pillows to show their love for the Englewood community.
Teachers Lisa Nielsen, Mark Piebenga, Anna Sands, Alex Bearman, Lee Savinar, Jeff Stone and Jake Rosenbluth supported her efforts by engaging their students in the project. They created 100 stuffed hearts that were distributed to children and adults of the Englewood community on Valentine’s Day. Each heart has a sticker with encouraging words on it.
When asked how she teaches empathy and helps students connect to others, Greenie replied, “Empathy isn’t taught; it is an action, a feeling and a way to show understanding, being aware and being sensitive to others. Taking time to do something for someone with no thought of reward or compensation except a warm feeling from within. That is what empathy is all about. We all need to feel significant and know that someone, somewhere cares about us.”
The connections between Parker and The Peace House will continue this spring as Library and Information Services Specialist Mary Catherine Coleman and Educational Technology Integration Specialist Sarah Beebe will involve all three 1st grade classes in a project focusing on the flowers of Illinois. Students will create watercolor pictures of these flowers and sell them to raise money to purchase seeds and plants for The Peace House gardens.
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The connections between Parker and The Peace House have continued, read about our newest collaboration here.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.