Iowa Teens Do Yard Work for the Elderly for School Credits

Group of people in a circle with hands and feet extended on green grass.

Iowa teens have been part of a teaching experiment that shows children that the value of good work is essential. (Image: vait_mcright via Pixabay)

Iowa teens have been part of a teaching experiment that shows children the value of good work is essential as they are the future of the world. The adage might seem clichéd, but it is true. Thanks to the advent of technology and digital connectivity, dragging teens away from their phones or computer screens takes a miracle.

But many Iowa teens can be seen doing community work, like landscaping for elderly people. The secret to this is that the school decided to grant these students credits that will be counted toward their Physical Education classes.

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Iowa teens garden to work out

Many of us dreaded P.E. classes. The various exercises and countless laps across the school grounds were endurance exercises for most. But students endured because the valuable credits from the physical education classes were at stake. But students and some teachers from the Alternative Learning Center, Dubuque, Iowa, have taken the initiative to tackle two aspects with one solution — do the yard work elderly people cannot do and earn academic credits at the same time.

The fact that gardening and landscaping take more energy and skills than jogging is a bit off-putting. But this is precisely why the kids were asked to get involved with this community work. Most of the yard work requires heavy lifting or bending and squatting for a prolonged time.

Iowa teens were doing yard work like cleaning the stairs.
Iowa teens were doing yard work like cleaning the stairs. (Image: Gunold via Dreamstime)

The elderly living in community homes are either too old to spend this much energy or have disabilities that stop them from doing various types of yard work. The Alternative Learning Center highlights the fact that doing what the elderly people cannot do for them is not just a way to give back to the community, but a way to stay fit too.

The teacher behind this innovative plan

Tim Hitzler, who is one of the teachers at the Alternative Learning Center, came up with this curriculum. He highlights the fact that the school is mainly full of students who are at risk of dropping out of school. Since education is a vital part of a child’s upbringing, staying within the limits of a standard curriculum would not do.

The teacher also highlighted that the teens were not initially very keen on the idea. This step was taken by Hitzler as a two-week program at the end of the year summer course. And the success of this has made him hopeful that they can extend it further for next year.

It is not the first time Hitzler has worked outside of the box. In 2015, in his first year working at the school, he was awarded the Iowa Association for Alternative Education “Newcomer of the Year” Award. The award is presented to the educator with less than five years of alternative teaching experience who embodies the values needed to inspire children.

“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing students solve real world problems with the projects we do in class,” Hitzler told the school.

“Real projects come with real obstacles, real stress, real emotions and hopefully real success.”

Tim Hitzler

A successful initiative

Kids, especially teens, would rather stay in their room with their noses stuck in a book or some web series. Getting these teens to do the landscaping or gardening work took some encouragement on the teacher’s part, but once these teens got involved, they started liking it.

The fact that they are getting credits was a lucrative offer and got things going, but once the teens got involved with the work, they not only found the concepts of gardening interesting, they mingled with different people and were pleasantly surprised! These Iowa teens got a great platform to learn and get creative.

Handwritten word "Community" appearing in a red hand-drawn heart behind torn brown paper.
Helping the community is heartfelt. (Image: Ivlinr via Dreamstime)

Simultaneously, they met various elderly people who imparted interesting and useful knowledge about the world in general and life in particular. But what made the program a success was the fact that these kids were eager to help people and give something back to the community. Teachers say that students who have left school also came to help with this initiative.

Making different generations and strangers meet and help each other is the core of humanity. Oftentimes, we forget that in a bid to establish a life for ourselves and our future generations. It is stories like these Iowa teens enjoying doing yard work for elderly people that make us realize the importance of being helpful.

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