Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Town that Cares Makes Kids Who Care

Whitehall, New York in the United States

       Deep in the Adirondack foothills lies a small town called, Whitehall, New York.  A community of around 4000 souls.  It's a quiet town.  The town's ethics are based on family, church, school, and community. Many families have lived here for generations. Whitehall is not a wealthy town, but what it lacks in riches, it makes up for in heart. 
    So, on April 25th and again on May 12th when the children in my classroom came to school and learned about the massive earthquakes in Nepal, they wanted to know more. We looked for the tiny country located between China and India on the world map.
Epicenter of the earthquakes in Nepal
     We reviewed what happens in the earth when an earthquake happens. An earthquake is what happens when two plates or large blocks of earth underground slip past each other. The underground focus point of an earthquake is called the hypocenter or sometimes ground zero. The location on the surface of earth is called the epicenter and this is where the fault line is. Next we looked at images of the earthquake in Nepal on our smartboard.
Safety procedure during an earthquake.
    When my students saw the students in Nepal going to class in tents, they wanted to drop everything, and help their peers across the world. They wanted to find a way to help the Nepalese children get new schools to cover them and supplies so that once again they had a place to hold on to.  They were amazed that children went to school right after this devastating earthquake so that there parents were free to help others. They worried about the kids who may have lost family members or been injured themselves. So, we all put on our thinking hats, and devised a plan. First we had to get approval from our Principal who gave us a resounding "yes"! Next, I contacted my friend, in Kathmandu, Nepal  to get the information of where to send our donation. He thanks our children everyday.
      Finally, we decided to use symbolism to represent our emotions and concern for the Nepalese children and build them a paper school which would represent the building of a new school life for them. How did we do this?

1)  We first made bricks from paper.
2)  Next we made posters, flyers, and sent letters home to our parents.
3) We made  morning announcements to tell everyone in the school about our efforts to raise funds by donations to help schools devastated by the earthquakes in Nepal.
4)  We set up a station to take donations during lunch.
5) Our classroom aide, Mrs. Faryniarz outlined our symbolic paper school on the wall outside of our classroom. Our art teacher, Miss Badger made a door, windows and a bell for our paper school. My students and I carefully lay the bricks every afternoon. It's fun watching the Nepalese School grow!
6) Finally, in our life skills/math lesson. We counted
our donations. The students had never put coins in wrappers before. They loved doing this!
7) Now we repeat step 3-7 everyday, hoping to fill-in and complete our symbolic paper school for Nepal. We are a bit worried because we only have two and one-half weeks before school is over! We however are not quitters and will find a way!
    There is a beautiful part to our saga. We visibly saw hearts grow! Our paper school started out slow, even though a donation was a personal choice of one cent or more! The kids  and teachers in our school wanted to know more. So we shared stories from Nepal and explained to those who didn't know where Nepal was, where it is. We saw hearts grow even bigger. Kids came from every corner in our 6th-12th grade school to make a donation. Teachers, aides, custodians, secretaries, administration, bus drivers and board members gave donations. Then we saw hearts grow again! A grandmother from town sent in $20.00 for a brick! Other towns people heard of our endeavor and sent in donations! Still, just when we thought our project couldn't gain any more supporters, it did! We gained support from friends in: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio,  and other towns in New York!  This is project based learning (PBL) at it's finest.
     Whitehall, New York is a town that cares. Our children are becoming global citizens. Children who want to help other children learn from the adults in their lives who help others everyday. We can't fix all of the damage from the earthquake in Nepal or fix broken hearts, but just maybe we can use our donation to Nepal as a kind of BIG HUG from the students, staff, townspeople, and friends of those  in Whitehall Jr. Sr. High School to say we care.

* The paper school is for symbolism as a visual for the students to see their efforts grow. The donation sent to Nepal will go for school system supplies but will only be a portion of what a new school costs.
* Our "thinking" hats are part of our WCSD group the "helping hats", which is from our work with the "Not Perfect Hat Club" and author, Jena Ball.

Good-news We finished our paper school on our last day of school. Here we are quite proud of our efforts. We were very worried that we might not finish before the end of the school year! Thank you so much to our contributors from Whitehall and from far away!