Mad River Valley students give back globally - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Mad River Valley students give back globally

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Schools in Vermont's Mad River Valley are incorporating philanthropy into their curricula.

Students like second-grader Tessa Jernigan at Waitsfield Elementary School are trying to make a difference.

"It’s helping them with their life not just helping you with yours," said Jernigan.

They may not be celebrities like Bono or Oprah with time, money and influence, but they are learning no effort is too small.

"The curriculum asked us to teach kids that they could make a difference and they didn't have to be famous and I wanted them to think globally. I had one idea, we started by looking at the continents and the countries to get an idea of where we were in the world," said Tom Young, first- and second-grade teacher at Waitsfield Elementary.

Young challenged his first- and second-grade class to raise money for a charity that could help people on a global scale. The project fits in with the states push for learning beyond traditional classroom models.

And second-grader Logan Wilson decided Heifer International was the perfect fit.

"I told it to Mr. Young, and it sort of tied into the unit that he was doing," said Wilson

Heifer International is not your typical charity. Money raised goes toward the purchase of sustainable supplies like livestock and clean water to help places with a long history of poverty not only eat, but sell agricultural products for a reliable source of income.

The students then created a video and learned to use social media to explain why they wanted to raise money for Heifer International.

And these aspiring philanthropists got donations from not only Vermont, but from all across the country and even the world.

Young set the class goal at $500, but his students decided they could do better. Seven times better to be exact. They raised $3,500.

"I only thought we were gonna raise like $900," said Young.

Then it was time to break up into teams to decide what to buy with the money.

"How are you going to pick something? Are you going to have everybody pick something? How are you gonna do it," said Young.

And practice budgeting, but the students learned quickly that making a difference is not just about the cash. One cow can go a long way.

Projects like this fit into the state's new Education Quality standards with use of what are called Transferrable Skills such as:

  • Collaboration
  • Problem Solving
  • Technology Use
  • Creativity

The concept of global giving doesn't stop at the elementary level.

Steve Rand is an English teacher at Harwood Union High School in Moretown. He takes a group of students each winter on a service trip to Rwanda.

"Cultivating that global citizenship. That's a big thing I know we've talked K through 12 in this district about and it's a big part of our work here at Harwood," said Rand

There they visit genocide memorial sites, volunteer at schools and orphanages, and exchange stories with the local people. And just like their elementary counterparts, the Harwood students used technology and kept a blog.

The state's push for learning beyond the classroom is working at Harwood. Rand says his students are more engaged.

"The idea that a young person can create a project that they are invested in because they see an outcome transcends any kind of a grade. They see that an outcome can actually impact a community," said Rand.

And students at Waitsfield elementary think helping others is "better than gifts on your birthday," as Wilson puts it.

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