How Matchbook Learning supports and celebrates students during the holidays
Great schools not only foster academic growth, but they cultivate a supportive, inclusive community for students and families. At Matchbook Learning at Wendell Phillips (Matchbook), an Indianapolis Public Schools’ innovation network charter school launched in 2018, this is exemplified. The school serves more than 640 K-8 students with a customized model that blends face-to-face and virtual instruction in brick-and-mortar schools via a one-to-one computing environment.
Through their Community Thanksgiving and Celebration of Learning, Matchbook is proving that they work to not only empower students, but families as well. Each event was led by a group of Matchbook staff members who are dedicated to giving families and students a holiday to remember and celebrate.
Community Thanksgiving Providing Families Warm Holiday Meals
Natalie Woods is the Director of Outreach and Social Services at Matchbook. A main aspect of her role in outreach and social services is providing resources and opportunities to the families and students at the school. One of the many ways they achieve this is by keeping holiday traditions such as the Community Thanksgiving which served 413 families in 2023 alone.
“When thinking about our mission and providing real-world experience…I generally recruit a few 8th graders to help me set up for the event and prepare desserts. When they find out they are helping to serve the families attending the event later that evening they seem to take more responsibility and appreciation for what they are doing,” Woods expresses.
Since its opening, Matchbook has been able to provide support during Thanksgiving offering free, warm meals and resources to their school community and surrounding neighbors. Thanks to strong relationships with local churches, they have been able to provide families with meals, year after year.
Since a majority of the families live in the same Westside neighborhood, they feel a greater sense of being uplifted by their neighbors and the initiative brings a greater sense of giving back to the community as a whole.
“We changed the way we serve families… prior to COVID we had a sit-down dinner and now we do a drive-thru. Families pull up in their cars and let us know how many meals they need and then drive up to the next door and a member of the team will bring them out to them,” Woods shares. “They are able to enjoy their meals in the comfort of their own home.”
Bi-Annual Celebration of Learning Showcases Student Work
Claire Taylor is a 4th Grade Teacher and part of the Celebration of Learning committee at Matchbook. In her roles, she works to ensure students are learning, have fun, and see real-world examples while doing it.
The Celebration of Learning is a whole school affair. The night happens twice a year, towards the end of the Fall and Spring semesters. Every grade, teacher, and student participates each semester, each with unique projects that reflect their progress. From “traveling” the world, to building robots, and even building their own Rubik’s cubes, the students incorporate different aspects of learning into each project.
“It’s a great way to get the families involved and celebrate how awesome our kids are, how proud they are of their work, and how much they have put into it,” she states.
Students in fourth grade, for example, were tasked with reading House on Mango Street to start their project. Next, students were asked to dig deeper into themselves and write and build a puzzle-style self-reflection including an answer to the question, if you could pick how your name was perceived by others, how would you want to be seen? Lastly, as part of the art project, students drew a self-portrait with half portraying how they see themselves, and the other half how the world sees them.
“They will blow your mind with how smart they are,” Taylor says. “I love our kids because they are so grateful, so creative, and love everything you give them and turn it into beauty.”