Country, city schools forge bond

April 04, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

What does an inner-city elementary school have in common with a high school that sits on rolling land in rural suburbia?

Much more than meets the eye, say students from Francis Scott Key High School in Uniontown and Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary School in East Baltimore.

They're all kids at heart, with teens and younger children running together on the playing fields at Key for an Easter egg hunt, and flopping down in exhaustion on the pole-vaulting mats.

"We do things for them; they do things for us," said Tom Michael, senior class president at Key. "We will write them letters on the 19th, on National Student Service Day. [But] I don't think it's mainly for an educational purpose. It's more to show them someone cares, and they're our sister school."

The students at Key planned a day of fun Wednesday for 39 students from Bernard Harris, who rode a bus from East Baltimore to western Carroll County. The cultural and educational exchange is an even one, the students say.

"We showed them, I think, how they used to act when they were in elementary school," said Nashawn Booker, 9, a fourth-grader at Bernard Harris. "We could work together as partners to make the world a better place."

The students also made posters for each other for Black History Month and each school produced a videotape of its community.

Anna Williams, a reading teacher at Bernard Harris, said the school is one of the few city elementaries that emphasize community service.

Nashawn and her 38 schoolmates, from grades one to four, earned the right to go on the field trip by having perfect attendance this year. She hasn't missed a day of school since the second grade, when she was out with the chicken pox.

"If you don't go to school every single day, you might miss out on things you need to know when you grow up," said Nashawn, who said she wants to be a lawyer.

Third-grader David Adams, 8, takes a more pragmatic approach.

"I don't like to go to school, but I got to go so I can get a job," he said.

Students at Key, looking for a community service project four years ago, formed the partnership with Bernard Harris, at Caroline and Oliver streets. At that time, students didn't have to complete any community service to graduate. The state regulation requiring "service learning" took effect with this year's freshmen.

"These particular students don't need to rack up the points," said Ellen Baker, a teacher at Key. "They just like to do it."

Each year, the students have visited each other at least once, and pen pals correspond a few times a year.

The high school students, from the senior class, the Future Homemakers of America and the Future Farmers of America, coordinated crafts, face-painting, lunch and other activities to keep the elementary students busy during the latest visit.

From inside an Easter bunny suit, Key senior Tom Coe read a book to the children as they ate lunch.

The FFA made little "cluckers," chickens that make a clucking noise, out of yellow plastic cups for the Baltimore children to take home.

"A lot of them have never been to the country," Ms. Williams said of the city children.

In a letter to her pen pal at Key, Harris second-grader Ashley Jones wrote:

"This is my first time in the country. I hope I see animals."

Ashley and her classmates did see one live animal. The future farmers brought in a bunny for the children to pet.

One Bernard Harris student had a close encounter when the very real rabbit bit his finger.

But he was feeling well enough half an hour later to compete in the egg hunt.

"When they come here, they don't want to leave," Ms. Williams said.

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