As the flu season begins to wind down, this is an opportunity to think more broadly about our responsibilities to our neighbors and our fellow citizens. Richard Weissbourd, Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, spoke at our November “Lunch and Learn” about the importance of engaging children in community service, i.e. the importance of giving back to one’s community. Most of our public health advances are in part driven by collective decisions. Vaccinations, while critical to prevent serious illnesses such as meningitis, measles, whooping cough, and flu, never can provide 100% protection unless enough people in the community are immunized to provide “herd immunity.”
Research on early childhood outcomes all point to the same conclusion: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Neighborhoods that protect and mentor young children are critical ingredients in helping young children to enter kindergarten ready to learn. Once children enter school, the most effective learning environment includes opportunities for children to work cooperatively in groups and share ideas. The business and the medical community have completely embraced the importance of people working in teams to produce better outcomes. Even during the recent snowstorm (The Blizzard of 2013), we were constantly reminded of the importance of checking to be sure our neighbors were safe.
At Boston Children’s Museum we embrace the opportunity to help children to develop into good collaborators, teammates and citizens. In all of our activities, we try to encourage children to work together supportively and, as a result build and practice skills of cooperation and camaraderie. We believe this will contribute to children growing up to be thoughtful citizens who actively seek out ways to give back to their own communities when they themselves are adults.