One little thing can make a big difference

Craig & Marc Keilburger have touched much of the world with their Me to We campaign, spearheaded by Free the Children, the charitable organization they run.

Both Craig and Marc started activities that are changing the world when they were elementary school students. From such modest aspirations grow great achievements!

And grades 7 and 8 students at Steele Street Public School have the same opportunity. In their teachers’ Make a Difference project, these students from two classes have the chance to look outside of themselves and their immediate concerns to notice who needs them.

The Make a Difference project encompasses almost every subject in school as students identify a potential activity or service they can make that will benefit someone else.They have to plan their approach, make a phone call (which is often foreign to this texting generation), plan the project and explain it to the recipient, carry it out, report back on it, and participate in a class-wide symposium to share their experiences. And they have to record as much of it as possible on video!

What a great project. Teachers Mary Anne Ellis and Jamie Herbst emphasize that this project is really all about the students. Now in its third year, the project does embrace much of the curriculum and both teachers are thrilled with the 100% involvement from their students.

Here are a few examples…

Morgan Henwood and Mitchell Niepage are rehearsing and performing for seniors at Whispering Pines Retirement Home. Not only will they play guitar and violin together, they will spend time socializing with seniors after their performance.

Nicholas Daovski and Skylar Newman identified that they wanted to help people touched by cancer. They’re taking their very practical organizational skills to Gilda’s Club where, for the past two weeks, they have been cleaning up the yard, organizing and cleaning out cupboards, counting up those valuable Zehrs receipts and helping to run various events at the Quarry Ridge Rd facility.

Luke Towns and Cole Bradt will take over Hickling Park on April 20, this weekend, and kids ages 6 to 11 will have the chance to play soccer, football, frisbee. They’re also asking for donations of food items for the food bank.

There’s more. Rebecca Oliver is focussing on the Women’s and Children’s Centre. First she called the centre to find out what sorts of items they need and she is now organizing a school-wide clothing and toiletries drive. Every Steele Street classroom is receiving a large drop box for donated items and Rebecca has visited each classroom, explaining her project and telling students about what the shelter does for our community. She’s developing a ‘prize’ for the classroom with the most donations.

You can just feel the energy students are putting in to their activities.

The teachers sent a letter home to parents in March, explaining the Make a Difference project and telling parents about global and community issues and how students have been encouraged to choose an activity that will make a difference.

When students make their final presentations and share their projects with their class, imagine the group energy that will be shared! They’ll be sharing the videos they’ve taken and using their public speaking skills to tell the story of their projects.

“This has so much benefit for students,” says Mary Anne Ellis. We start to talk about issues they see right here in their own community. We brainstorm ideas, connect them to each other and encourage students to look at what interests them, and uses their skills.”

“Sometimes they find they’re too young for some of their ideas and they have to go to Plan B. It’s great training,” says teacher Jamie Herbst. “Some like to work alone and others are more comfortable in groups of two or three.”

The students are graded on their entire experiences; these projects become really important to them.

From me. To we. Great introduction of the concept of volunteerism.

Thanks, Mary Anne. Thanks, Jamie. And thanks to all these creative students!