Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2008

Students learn global impact of compassion

January 24, 2008

A lesson in social studies met a lesson in compassion for two classes at Lansing Intermediate School, giving students the chance to learn firsthand how their generosity could have an international effect.

Students of Connie Evans and Brandi Lynn's fourth-grade classes had a weeklong lesson on different Christmas customs around the world before starting "The Gift of Giving" fundraiser that left them with $247 to give to others in need.

This was the second year Evans has participated in the Heifer International project, which asks students to give up a gift or part of their allowance for the cause. With the money students raise, they can chose what item, such as a goat, cow or chicken, they would like to purchase to give to a family struggling with poverty.

"It's a pretty neat organization, and I think it's good for kids to understand and help people," Evans said.

During the lesson, students learned about the different countries where their gifts could go. They also learned about how different states and countries rely on one another for important resources, which Evans said was part of the fourth-grade curriculum.

"Students learn that people need others," she said. "We rely on each other."

While compassion and giving is not something specifically taught in the classroom, the Heifer project and lessons introduce the concept to the students. With little hesitation, Evans said her students embraced the project.

Many gave up allowances or took on more work to raise money while others searched the house, including under couch cushions, for any little bit of change they could find.

"We had a lot of pennies, nickels and dimes to count, but that's OK," Evans said.

Once their collection was complete, the students sat down to figure out just what they wanted to spend the money on. During this time, however, tragedy struck the Swope family in Lansing when their house caught fire.

One family member was a Lansing Intermediate School student, so a schoolwide campaign was started to help the family rebuild what was lost. That's when one of the students in Evans' class suggested part of the money they raised be given to the family.

With a unanimous vote, the students donated $67 to the family because Evans said her students were concerned the family wouldn't get a real Christmas.

"I think it says a lot about this giving community. People are so willing to help," Evans said.

With the rest of the money, the students voted to buy a mother and baby goat, as well as a trio of rabbits. When deciding on these animals, the students discussed which options would offer the most to the families for the amount of money they had. Evans said a goat would not only reproduce but also give people milk, cheese and meat for the dinner table.

Throughout the whole lesson, Evans said the class was brought closer together. She said a family was formed as they worked together to help others in need, and in the short time of the lesson there has already been a change in the way the students treat each other.

"They really are very caring and giving to each other," she said. "Things like sharing and loaning that I didn't see as much before, I'm seeing now."

The ultimate goal of the class when the project started was to raise enough money to buy an "Ark," which according the Heifer International catalog contains two of 15 different types of animals. The cost is $5,000, so Evans said she discussed the feasibility of the goal with the students in the beginning and incorporated math by figuring how much each student would have to bring in for that much to be earned.

There's still a chance for that goal to be met, however. Evans said she's talked to people on the student council about making it a schoolwide project next year, so even more money could be raised for the international cause.

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