Saul Calzadilla is one of those teachers kids just love. He can always find ways to make learning fun.
And his “Green Machine” gardening program is Exhibit A.
During a typical day at his school in Nashville, Calzadilla’s students learn about life, death, and the consequences of their actions (like don’t pick a melon too early or it won’t become ripe) in a garden right outside the classroom.
“For almost every other science class, we find ourselves out in the garden exploring,” Calzadilla says. “Putting the seeds in, pulling the weeds out, and making sure there’s hay spread out to keep the weeds from coming back up. It’s a lot of fun.”
And of course, with all that dirt, mud, and water, the kids get really messy in the process. (But, hey, isn’t that part of the fun?)
While it can be fun to be messy, it didn’t take long for Calzadilla to realize all that dirt might not be so fun for some families that didn’t have easy access to a washer-dryer.
And that’s why laundry programs, like the Whirlpool Care Counts™ laundry program, can be so helpful.
Many of Calzadilla’s students are from low-income families that don’t have access to laundry machines at home, and the frequent laundromat visits can get expensive quickly. That meant not everyone was having fun in his class.
Some kids wouldn’t participate in the gardening activities out of fear that their parents would get “really mad” at them if they came home dirty. A few even started missing school because they didn’t want to re-wear their dirty clothes to school.
Instead of learning and playing uninhibited, these kids were letting their fear of getting dirty affect their learning. And most importantly, they were missing out on a class that taught them valuable life skills at the same time.
It was hard on the parents too.
Monica, a mom at the Nashville school, remembers how stressful it was once when she couldn’t afford to repair her dryer after it went on the fritz. You don’t have to be a parent to realize that getting kids ready for school each day is no joke — but in addition to the common morning ritual, Monica also spent her mornings deciding whether she should send her kids to school in damp clothes or in something from the dirty pile.
Something seemingly as simple as access to clean clothes has a far-reaching impact on the education and self-esteem of children.
That’s why the school knew it had to do something, and thanks to a donation from the Whirlpool Care Counts™ laundry program, they were able to install a washer and dryer for all to use.
Suddenly, families could visit the campus and do their kids’ laundry free of charge.
Calzadilla noticed positive results from the jump.
“Kids come to school with more confidence and focus on the things that matter, like playing in the garden or making friends when otherwise it might have been difficult for them,” he says.
Plus, thanks to parents like Monica, using the laundry facilities is stigma-free.
As a member of the parent-teacher association, she knew the onus was on people like her to reassure other parents that no one would judge them for using the washer and dryer. “Knowing other parents are there to support you is really helpful,” she says. “It’s a lot easier than hearing the teacher say it.”
Having the facilities is good enough for most, but the effects of the program are more profound than just clean clothes for the kiddos.
It fosters a sense of inclusion in the community that wasn’t present before.
While they’re waiting for the laundry, parents are able to volunteer in the classrooms and spend time getting to know their fellow moms and dads.
For Monica, a stay-at-home mom, it gave her the adult interaction she desperately craved by helping others. “It gave me a sense of purpose,” she recalls.
Thanks to this program, teachers can focus on learning, parents can focus on parenting, and kids can focus on being kids.
And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Parenting is a really tough job, but the washer and dryer at the school has helped to alleviate some of that stress. Instead of spending money and time at the laundromat on a Tuesday night, parents can save their money and help their kids with homework.
Overall, parents at the school are a much happier bunch because of it.
“It’s just an amazing thing, not having to worry about if clothes are going to be clean or dirty or if their kids are going to be smelly,” Monica beams.
Often, it’s easy to take clean clothes for granted and forget how much of a privilege it is. An unavoidable aspect of childhood is getting dirty — and no kid should feel ashamed to do what comes naturally to them.
That’s why the Whirlpool Care Counts™ laundry program has already donated washers and dryers to 58 schools nationwide, and they plan to donate even more in the coming months so that other kids can learn and play without being afraid of getting a little dirty.
“It’s something so small, but it’s so big at the same time,” Monica says.
Anything that helps make the world a better place is always a big deal. Even if it’s just cleaning up life’s little messes.
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