A group of children from River Oaks Baptist School sitting on top of a pile of food

Service Learning in Action

In 2019, ROBS initiated an overhaul of the Service Learning program this year to prioritize quality over quantity. The Service Learning curriculum now emphasizes hands-on activities that revolve around one of three areas of focus:

  1. Poverty (including hunger and homelessness)
  2. Environmental sustainability (including clean water and biodiversity)
  3. Serving those who serves us (i.e. first responders and members of the armed services)

When our students leave ROBS, they will have a deeper understanding of some of the world’s challenges, as well as how they can help address them.

The following article ‘Small Things with Great Love’ first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of ‘Vine & Branch’ magazine.

Prekindergarten student Bailey Fisher had just delivered a care package to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and her heart was full. Brimming with snacks and cards of appreciation, the colorful basket represented a gift of gratitude from River Oaks Baptist School to first responders as part of All-School Day of Service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The deputies were touched by the outpouring of love on the students’ cards, the special delivery of scrumptious treats, but most of all for being recognized on the day celebrating Dr. King’s legacy. The gesture’s impact was not lost on Bailey. “We need 100 baskets!” she exclaimed on the way home, pointing out every police car and fire station along the route.

Creating opportunities for our students to share God’s love and experience the joy of serving others is the cornerstone of our Service Learning program. Service connects deeply to our mission to prepare students to become tomorrow’s leaders through a combination of academic excellence and Christ-like love. This year, we have been reshaping our Service Learning efforts to emphasize hands-on activities that revolve around one of three areas of focus: poverty, environmental sustainability, and serving others, especially those who serve us. To increase the impact of these experiences, before the activity students learn about the need that will be addressed; afterwards they take time to reflect. This three-part structure can transform even a small act of service into a powerful tool for building children’s empathy and fostering their belief that they can make a difference in the world.

A young boy carrying a large stack of boxes


“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

—1 Peter 4:10


Grade-level teams also choose age-appropriate service projects, often selecting activities that connect with their curriculum. Students recycle crayons, pen letters to military personnel and veterans, and tutor younger students at an HISD elementary school. This year, reflecting the true meaning of Christmas, fourth graders bypassed a holiday party and instead repackaged
rice and beans for clients of CCSC and Mission Centers (formerly called Gano Baptist Mission). Afterwards, one student wrote, “I wanted to make sure every bag was perfectly packed, so the people who received them knew they were packed with love.”

A group of students carrying boxes with teachers helping them


We know children learn in part by observing the adults around them, so we create opportunities for the entire ROBS community to serve together. For example, ROBS celebrates the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday as “a day on, not a day off.” This year, instead of sleeping in, over 450 students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni worked together on seven different projects around the city to address some of Houston’s biggest concerns. By the end of the day, ROBS families had donated over 1,200 hours of service—the equivalent of 150 people working for an entire day—to make the Houston community stronger. “Our family loved meeting and working with other members of our ROBS community,” said Kathleen Connelly, who volunteered at the Houston Food Bank with her husband and three daughters. “There were so many valuable moments, like the nurturing and kindness my girls received from other ROBS parents and students. At dinner, my girls wanted to know who would receive the food we packaged. I felt so proud of everyone’s willingness to help.” Week in and week out, we encourage our students to be the example. These words are more than a catchy phrase. Rather, they summarize what a ROBS education is all about. To cultivate a culture of service, we offer young hearts and minds myriad ways to do small things with great love. As Mother Teresa said, “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

Contributed by Melanie Hightower, Director of Community Initiatives

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