Thursday, October 18, 2012

End Poverty Day and the power of seventh graders

I am afraid once again I have been neglecting this blog.  On Thanksgiving Day I got the flu that turned into just a cold that persisted and kind of wore me out a bit.  Also I was busy recreating my Moodle site for the class etc. 

Last week due to my cold I was kind of dragging.  I was also getting bogged down with forgotten homework etc.  The kids seemed to be dragging as well.  The weather turned ugly at the end of the week after months of sunshine.  And once again I had signed my class up for something and I realized I had better get moving.  Friday afternoon stretched out endlessly. 

Wednesday, October 17th, was End Poverty Day and in the summer I was told about this event by Janey Lee, an amazing and dedicated teacher at Thunderbird School (one of our inner city schools).  I registered our school as an official site and only vaguely thought about it since then. 

In Social Studies we had been studying the age old problem of not enough food so it all seemed to fit.  I had fallen in love with a book, Almost Home, by Joan Bauer, about a girl who becomes homeless, and was reading it to my class.  We also started lit circles this week about children who have faced poverty.  Our fundraising for Terry Fox had been disappointing so I decided that it was time to light a bit of a firecracker. 

I told each class group (they sit in table groups of four) that they had to come up with projects to make the school aware of End Poverty Day the following Wednesday.  I gave them the website to go to for information and told them that each group had to report with some kind of plan in about 20 minutes.  Good thing we have those ipads in the classroom. 

Well as you have heard me say before nothing this age level likes better than a project.  They came up with ideas galore (my least favorite was the car wash one) and I pushed them for details and definite plans. 

I was working in my classroom after school, the first day that week I had lasted very long, when a couple of the kids came in with money.  They had been hitting up teachers after school for money and succeeding!  I at least convinced them to let me keep the money and showed them how to set up a deposit form.  My idea had not been to do this and I probably would have told them not to harass my colleagues but they were in motion and I figured this wasn't the time to stop them.  I think we had 80 dollars before I knew it.

Monday they made more plans.   Some groups were getting together and holding bake sales Wednesday (we had a field trip Tuesday).  Signs went up and announcements began to be made.  More money kept coming in as they told friends and family about the project.  Tuesday we discussed a goal and decided the money would probably go to the Food Bank.  We may look at some other causes as well.  I suggested 500 dollars, they thought that they couldn't raise that much so they decided 300 dollars and  on Wednesday a couple of people made a thermometer to show this. 

Food poured in on Wednesday, two tables were set up and the rush was on.  By Wednesday afternoon between the bake sale profits and donations they had received the class had made $302 dollars.  The bake sales continue today although about seven students are at We Day.  There are other plans afoot.  They have to make another thermometer.

I can honestly say other than giving a website link, some critical advice, counting money (to make it official) and supplying a few supplies and doing a little supervising,  I have done nothing.  This is all coming from 27 twelve year olds. And they are feeling the power of being able to do good and being in control. 

I am behind in Science, haven't finished the first unit, but hopefully they are learning  important lessons and skills, that they will take forward in life. 

The information that I learned from the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is quite shocking.  Our government has no plan to reduce poverty in our province for instance, even with the highest child poverty rate in the country.   I ask you to read more and sign their petition available online and share  this information with your friends.