Community is a big part of GFS. We love giving back and getting to know our surroundings. Each fall, the middle school has a day of service, but this year the Middle School Quakerism Committee was inspired to start something new, called Germantown Day.
To kick off the day, guest speaker, Ken Weinstein, spoke with us about a concept that he called “GFS without Borders.” It means that after our day out in the community, we should come back and feel that there weren’t walls surrounding our campus, because we would hopefully become part of our community. “GFS is a part of Germantown, and Germantown is a part of GFS,” he said. Ken also told us a little bit about his job renovating homes in the Philadelphia area so that he can then rent or sell the houses to people who need a home.
We then joined up with our mixed-grade worship sharing group. Each group was assigned a section of Germantown, which we were going to explore later that day. My group had a long stretch of Germantown Avenue. Our group leader, art teacher Bob Reinhardt, explained to us that asset-mapping involves making a map of all of the resources of an area, in our case, Germantown. We put all sorts of things on our maps, including child care centers, parking lots, public benches, and even public trash cans.
After we discussed asset mapping, we did an activity which taught us about different community assets. Then we were ready to go. We made our way up Germantown Avenue. Along the way, we discussed the different things that we saw, including the many historical landmarks in Germantown. A few blocks later, we stopped at Gilbert Stuart Park to eat our snack, pretzels provided so generously by the Community Action Club. Gilbert Stuart Park is where our worship sharing group worked last year during their day of service. Unfortunately, the gates were locked, so we sat right outside.
After our snack, we continued on our way, when we were stopped by a man on the school board at GFS. He introduced us to his hairdresser, Mr. Walt, who ran a barbershop and a bike store. He told us a little about his store, then we continued on our way. After walking several more blocks, arrived at the end of our section of Germantown, the crossroads of East Logan and Germantown. We stayed on that corner for a while, talking about the cemetery across the street called Freedom’s Backyard. Then we made our way back to GFS, taking a slightly longer route back so that Bob could show us more of Germantown. Contrary to what you might think, our day was only just beginning.
We returned to our classroom to eat lunch together, then headed up to the Poley Auditorium for another guest speaker, Keith Schenck who told us about his work cleaning up neighborhoods. We were also treated to a few songs by a folk singer! Kathy Palmier, GFS director of community involvement, sent us out to the dead graveyard, where we picked up rakes, shovels, trash bags, leaf bags, and gloves.
We walked along the same route that we had gone on earlier that day, and picked up trash and raked leaves in spots where there was an overflow of leaves. We didn’t have very much time, so we had to hurry back to school. We ended the day with Meeting for Worship so that we could reflect on how we got more in touch with our community.
Seventh grader Elie Pichanick says, “Germantown Day made me more aware of my surroundings and helped me get more in touch with my community.” For more information about Germantown Day, check out GFS’s own article about Germantown Day, or this informative video starring my own classmate, William Jiggets. Links below.