BYFIELD — Triton Regional High School history teacher Shawn McElligott wanted to give his senior political science class a lesson they wouldn't forget, so he started a project called How You Can Be a Good Citizen.
McElligott and his class spent a good portion of December looking specifically at traits such as respect, responsibility and initiative. But simply looking at the characteristics of a good citizen weren't quite enough for the class.
McElligott knows that everyone learns best by doing, so he reached out to local food shelters and animal daycare centers to see if they needed volunteers.
"I wanted them to have a real-life experience of being a good citizen," McElligott said. "So I had them go out into the community and perform a civic activity that will benefit the community."
Roughly 30 of McElligott's students headed to Our Neighbors' Table in Amesbury, The Pettengill House in Salisbury, Old South First Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, Beach Dog Daycare in Newbury and Rowley Public Library. They donated food and hygiene products, and assisted with fundraising drives.
Alexandra Flodman received a chance to work with a group of sixth-graders at Newbury Elementary School and said the experience was quite fulfilling for her and the students.
"I was put into a virtual classroom and I got to work with a group of kids in a breakout room and answer any questions that they needed answered," Flodman said. "I loved it. It is exactly what I wanted to do and was a good experience. I think the kids liked it, too."
Flodman is headed for Endicott College in the fall and intends to study elementary and special education. The high school senior said working with the sixth-graders helped to prepare her for what she hopes is a life in teaching.
"One of the reasons that I want to become a teacher is that I would like to know that I have made a difference in the kid's life," Flodman said. "I think it was the third time that I joined their class and one of the girls saw me and said, 'Alexandra, you're back!' That made my whole day."
Once the Triton students were done giving of their time, they wrote a reflection of their experience to be graded by McElligott.
"A couple of the kids are still finishing up their work but they really showed some appreciation for giving back to their communities," McElligott said. "They normally don't have those opportunities at this age. Instead of just writing up a test for the classroom, it was good for the community and it wasn't just a grade on a paper."
McElligott said his new curriculum has been so popular, he hopes to roll it out again next year.
"I wanted them to get a real understanding of what being a good citizen is," McElligott said. "I got a lot of that back, not only from the kids, but the recipients as well."
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.