Head of School Blog

Empty Bowls: “Because someone’s bowl is always empty…”

Jill Singleton
Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca said “The day that hunger is eradicated from the earth there will be the greatest spiritual explosion the world has ever known. Humanity cannot imagine the joy that will burst into the world.” The feeling of joy and spiritual excitement witnessed and experienced at Empty Bowls each year suggests to me that truer words were never spoken. Please come and experience for yourself this powerful infusion of optimism and hope on Saturday, April 27, when the church is transformed into an all-you-can-eat Cereal Café and service site.

At All Saints, spring ushers in a number of exciting milestone projects and events, including our school wide chick-hatching project, Kindergarten’s Farm Day, Second Grade’s Bridge Study, Third Grade’s Shakespearean Bard Bash, Fourth Grade’s NJ Boardwalk Celebration, Sixth Grade’s Baby Shower for a family in need, and the Eighth Grade Student Exchange Trip to Ecuador, to name just a few. Each of these experiences brings our mission to life and our community together through demonstrations of learning and shared experiences, but perhaps no event packs the same punch as Empty Bowls, providing a way for everyone – including the very youngest students among us – to make a difference. Whether coming for breakfast, performing for guests, collecting toiletries from shoppers outside local supermarkets for shelter guests, or donating blood – in just three hours our families and staff pull together to support our broader community in a comprehensive and loving way. And although our goal is to help others, we benefit from the spiritual fulfillment and joy of knowing that our life is serving an important purpose in the world. Perhaps Ms. Nguyen said it best in an email to me this morning: “When I attend Empty Bowls, I am reminded of all the reasons I love All Saints. Empty Bowls is an event that allows children, parents, and faculty to come together as a community of compassion. Students learn that in service there is great joy.”

But don’t just take my word for it! For morning work today, Fourth Graders were asked to respond to the question, “Why is Empty Bowls important?” Here are just a few of their responses:

“Empty Bowls is important because it is there to help remind people that someone’s bowl is always empty. It is good to help people who are hungry or homeless because if one person believes, if you believe, we can all stop hunger.” (Douglas)

“Just think about people living on the streets with no money or food. Even children are out there suffering from hunger. You can help these people by just coming to Empty Bowls.” (Tarragh)

“You can help spark hope in people’s hearts. When you walk in the red back door of the church you will see art, and bright colors. You will hear songs, laughter and babies crying and talking around you and the guitar and piano. I can imagine a world of not hungry people. People (will say) ‘We can make a difference, one by one.’ You can feel the warmth of people helping one another.” (Isabel)

While the benefits of Empty Bowls are many – collecting funds for local hunger relief organizations, raising community awareness about the problems of hunger and homelessness, donating blood to those in need and gathering toiletries for guests at the shelter – the event provides the opportunity for student learning, and teachers take full advantage by developing meaningful learning experiences for ours students. In the busyness of the event, it’s possible for these to be lost if we are not intentional about looking for them. Below is a synopsis of student learning currently underway, which will culminate in educational displays at the event. Please be sure to come to Empty Bowls so you can see the results of their work.

Early Childhood
Students in Nursery and Pre-K will be making bowls from recycled materials with their reading buddies as a way to learn more about helping others. They will also add their handprints to (vinyl) record album bowls made by Fourth Graders as a sign that “even little hands can be helpful.” Students will be encouraged to think about giving of themselves in their own lives by making their own “giving tree” with their thoughts written and compiled on paper leaves. Our Kindergarten students will be visiting St. Matthew’s Lunchtime Ministry to learn more about how that community organizes its volunteers to feed 75 people every day. They will then use their burgeoning writing skills to create personal notes for Sandwich Squad bags as well as thank you cards for the volunteers at St. Matt’s. To round out the experience, students will create placemats and a “wishing star” for ending hunger.

First Graders will also visit St. Matthew’s Lunchtime Ministry to interview one of the key volunteers and, inspired by the Emily Dickinson quote, “Hope is a thing with feathers,” will create placemats for the event and will write and decorate letters encouraging people to donate blood. First Grade students make bowls from clay. Inspired by contemporary clay sculptor Lawson Oyekan, and learn how the symbolism of the bowl and how bowls have been used throughout history. Second Graders will use what they’ve learned about the importance of blood to make invitations to the blood drive, and will join their younger reading buddies to make biodegradable seed bowls. In art class, Second Grade students create bowls using yarn, reminiscent of ancient baskets, ones of the first vessels used to gather food. Using the software program “Wordle,” Third Graders will create artistic representations of Dorothea Lange’s images of hunger and poverty and will write responses to these images. Third Grade students create bowls using a plaster mold process, where their bowls literally take on the shape of their hands. Fourth Graders will write reflective poems on the meaning of homelessness and will write thank you notes to be given to people who donate blood on the day of the event. Additionally, students create bowls using recycled records as a great way to be environmentally friendly while creating an important reminder about hunger.

Middle School
Fifth Graders will engage in a study of the living wage and Sixth Graders will look at the distributions of resources around the world. Seventh and Eighth Graders will learn about the concept of food insecurity and will create an informational display containing statistics for different groups, a map of food insecurity in the US and the world, the effects of food insecurity, and ways in which communities and the government are responding to this growing crisis. In addition, Seventh and Eighth Graders will host an educational Oxfam Breakfast Banquet for Fifth and Sixth Grade students and Middle School parents as a way of highlighting the realities and causes of hunger among different socioeconomic classes. All Middle School students create bowls using recycled materials, such as old fabrics and magazines.

To summarize, there are a number of ways your family can get in on the Empty Bowls action on Saturday, April 27:

• Your child or family can perform an artistic number (singing, dancing, etc.)
• You can donate blood during the drive that runs during the same hours as Empty Bowls (8:30-11:30am)
• Your family can sign up to take an hour-long shift at our toiletries drive at an area supermarket
• You can come and have breakfast at the all-you-can-eat Cereal Café, which runs from 8:30-11:30am
• You can make a donation

The Café will run from 8:30-11:30. Stop by for breakfast and/or to donate blood. You’ll be inspired by the work of our students, and will have the pleasure of hearing their musical talents as you eat breakfast. You’ll also be invited to take home a student-made bowl as a reminder that “Someone’s bowl is always empty.” Your participation will send a strong message to our children that their activism is valued and worthwhile, and will encourage them to continue their service to neighbor and community.

If you would like to participate in any of the above, contact Nicole Kemp for more information: nkemp@allsaintshoboken.com. Also be on the lookout for ways you can help in this week’s Mid-Week Memo.

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com.