With activities that ranged from leading science classes in elementary schools to teaching a Bollywood dance class at the Red Hook library, Bard College students spent the month of January engaged in community service.
This volunteerism culminates in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Engagement, which the college’s Center for Civic Engagement held this year on Sat., Jan. 18. Now in its fourth year, the program connects 500 students to 30 local organizations through a variety of opportunities.
This year, sophomore Caley Cross helped to lead science experiments with Young Rhinebeck, a program designed to provide mentorship, cultural competency and global awareness, For the service day, Cross led the students in a project that involved mixing hydrogen peroxide, yeast and dish soap to make a foamy, growing mass Cross called “elephant toothpaste.”
“It’s to teach them about chemical reactions. The yeast acted as a catalyst,” she explained.
Wendy Brisley, a program coordinator for Young Rhinebeck, values the partnership with Bard because she wants the students to know that college is an option for them.
“A lot of what we do is making sure they get the academics they need to graduate,” she said, adding that sometimes there isn’t time for science in the regular after-school tutoring curriculum
The same day, other Bard students led local Girl Scouts troops in earning their Playing the Past badge, which focuses on women in history.
Amy Shein, co-troop leader for Red Hook Girl Scout Troop 10210, was grateful for the activity. “Any time that we have an opportunity for our girls to become involved with college students, we take it,” she said, “It’s good for them to see where they’re going. They have a blast.”
The Center for Civic Engagement also organizes visits by Bard students to local elementary schools to teach science experiments. Close to 3,000 students from kindergarten to 8th grade participated this year, and first-year Bard students taught science activities in six school districts: Red Hook, Germantown, Pine Plains, Rhinebeck, Kingston and Hudson. In one instance, students learned how to mix ingredients to make slime and then explored why the experiment worked.
Students lead similar experiments on Jan. 9, on Science Night Out. The event was held in partnership with the Rhinebeck Science Foundation, and all Rhinebeck public school students were invited. They were introduced to experiments with termite activity and with the power of magnets.
Community members were grateful for the help the students provided.
Red Hook village mayor Ed Blundell told the Observer, “I consider Bard our cultural and economic engine in the village.”
And Brett King, principal of Chancellor Livingston Elementary School, said, “Every time we work with Bard students and get events going, they are accommodating and so professional, and you can count on them. I trust when they’re in my building.”
In turn, Erin Cannan, the associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement, said volunteering was important for the students as well.
“Engagement is a core of a democratic society,” she told the Observer. “It’s about … exploring what your responsibility is to community and figuring out how to define who your community is.”