Two weeks ago third graders spent nearly three hours counting all the coins they collected from their change drive during the week of January 14-18. The classroom floor was strewn with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters as students worked in groups to count, record, and compute the amount of money they collected. As a result of their tireless perseverance in sorting and calculating coins children walked away with a deep appreciation for just how impressive their final total was, coming in at $1,351.52.
All the money raised will go towards purchasing books for the school in Mablomong, South Africa that Tuxedo Park resident Sue Heywood and the organization CarryYou are connected with. Third graders will each select a different loved picture book for our connection in South Africa to purchase. They will be able to send letters and illustrations to their peers in Mablomong about themselves and their reasons for selecting each book. The remainder of the money will be used to purchase a variety of books in English, Afrikaans, and other local tribal languages to fill out the collection at the school.
Third graders are featured in a local paper (The Photo News) highlighting their project and what they believed they learned from the experience. I encourage you all to read as their insights into themselves and the world are profound.
As their teacher, watching this project grow and develop from the seeds of their inspiration, I have marveled at what children can think, create, and do when given a safe environment, a thoughtful framework (though admittedly one I was making up as I went), and appropriate freedom. I have watched them grow in the incredibly crucial skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication, & cultural competency as they worked together to solve problems, construct plans, implement them, and remain focused on their purpose. We had the opportunity to talk about topics of leadership & followership, children’s rights, multiple intelligences, and the diversity of talents and skills in our classroom community. We talked daily about the importance of making decisions around and remaining anchored by their “why”, their reason for pursuing this coin drive in the first place. When I initially asked the question back in December: “WHY do we want to collect money to buy children at this school in South Africa books?”
Student responses generated this collaborative “mission statement”:
“People deserve an education. It is a child’s right to learn. In order to learn, people need books. We have so much and should share what we have. This gives children everywhere a better chance at a better life.”
Their relentless belief that these words mattered, and their perseverance in keeping their mission at the center through conflicts, presentations, planning, creating, and collecting is what ensured the success of their endeavor. From the beginning of this project the interest, framework, and implementation was student driven and as
a result they have acquired skills that will not fade (like the memorization of state capitals) because they were skills that were needed, honed, tested, and found necessary and useful. They know the challenges, triumphs, and hallmarks of good leaders and good followers (both of which are necessary for team dreams to become reality). They have greater appreciation for the diversity of what each member of their community brings to the table. They have the skills to resolve conflicts when they arise (as they inevitably do) in collaborative ventures. They have a deeper, richer global awareness and sense of citizenship in a world beyond themselves. Most invaluably: they have a stronger belief that they can make an impact…and the courage to act and make it real. They know now, in a way they did not before, that they can count on themselves and each other to be a source of the kind of change that lasts longer than pennies.