Each year at the MAMLE conference at Sugarloaf awards are presented to individual middle level educators as well as teams. This year there were four presented and there will be four blog posts, one on each awardee. This is the third of the four…
Lamoine Consolidated School teacher and MAMLE board member Carol Duffy presented MAMLE’s Exemplary Practice Award to Hancock Grammar School for their project Pennies for Peace. Below is the story provided by Kathy McGlinchey and Valerie Sprague.
HANCOCK GRAMMAR SCHOOL-BUILDING SCHOOLS, BUILDING COMMUNITY
At Hancock Grammar School, a passion fired in a group of teachers after reading the inspirational book Three Cups of Tea has resulted in a cross-curricular, cross-grade project that is on track to raise over $1000 to help build schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It all began last summer, when middle level social studies teacher Colleen Thomas read the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Many people are familiar with this story and its sequel, Stones Into Schools. After failing in an attempt to climb K-2, Greg became lost and stumbled into the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe. While he was there, he had the opportunity to observe 84 children, who were sitting in the dirt, on their own, doing their lessons. Not only did they have no teacher, they had no school. After the villagers nursed him back to health, Greg promised to return and build them a school.
This effort turned into his life’s work. His Central Asia Institute, or CAI, has been responsible for building over 130 schools in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. A major part of CAI’s mission is to provide schools for girls in this region.
The premise is simple. Hatred arises from ignorance. Ignorance is the real enemy. When given the opportunity to learn through a balanced curriculum, the capacity for open communication and better understanding is increased. The focus on education for girls stems from the belief that “When you educate a girl, you educate a village”.
Colleen was inspired by the book, and thought that the humanitarian project “Pennies for Peace” associated with this story might be an appropriate focus for her students. Children around the country raise money for building and supplying schools by collecting pennies. Sixth graders at Hancock Grammar School study Asia, and she felt that this might be a way to increase their understanding of Pakistani culture.
As it turned out, others teachers in the school had read the book, and were excited to become involved in the project. As word of the plan spread, still other teachers were interested in participating in some capacity.
Ultimately, it turned into a cross-curricular, cross-grade undertaking which has brought the school together for both learning and outreach.
Three Cups of Tea is available in a Young Reader’s Version, and middle level reading teacher Valerie Sprague used the book with her sixth grade students as a nonfiction text, addressing skills which included learning about nonfiction text features, vocabulary enrichment, and understanding character motivation. Students also analyzed setting in order to understand conflicts that occurred in the story, and examined cause and effect events around the challenges that Greg faced throughout his mission. Language arts teacher Jacquie Leighton explored character development through writing activities.
It should be noted that, since there had been no money budgeted for this project, teachers and support staff from throughout the building donated the 26 books needed. In addition, as an ongoing project, students have been using ePals to email other students from Pakistan, in hopes of learning more about the culture and to make connections to their own lives.
At the same time, sixth graders studied southern Asia in social studies with Colleen Thomas, learning about geography, history and culture. In grades seven and eight, Three Cups of Tea was read aloud to students during homeroom periods. In addition, a picture book of the story called Listen to the Wind was read by speech pathologist Kathy McGlinchey, to all kindergarten through grade five classes.
The sixth graders were quickly taken with the story. They were especially moved by the notion that children studied on their own, without teachers or supplies, using a stick to scratch their lessons into the dirt. They were anxious to spearhead a “Pennies for Peace” drive throughout the school to help support education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They set a goal of collecting 100,000 pennies, or $1000. At first, staff members were a little concerned that the goal might be too ambitious for our small school. We were clearly mistaken!
In early December, we held an all-school assembly to kick off the drive. Videos were shared from the “Pennies for Peace” website http://www.penniesforpeace.org (The website offers a K-12 curriculum linked to standards, an implementation guide, fact sheets and maps, along with links to videos). Sixth grade students, with help from Mrs. Thomas, prepared a slide show demonstrating “The Power of a Penny”. For example, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a penny can buy a pencil, which opens the door to literacy. Twenty dollars will provide school supplies for one student for a year, while $600 will pay for a teacher’s annual salary. Each class in the school was given a one-gallon jar for penny collection. Every week, pennies were combined in a 20 gallon trash can in the office of Principal Mike Hammer. Students were excited to watch the fruits of their labors, as first one trash can, and then a second were filled.
In addition, it was decided that sixth graders would serve as “ambassadors” to the younger students to share knowledge gained about Pakistan and Afghanistan in reading and social studies classes. Kindergarten through fifth grade classes invited teams of sixth graders to visit and share cups of tea. As described in the book, in Pakistan it is the custom to share tea to welcome guests. At the time of the first cup of tea you are still strangers, with the second cup you become friends, and by the third cup of tea you are a family. The sixth graders formed relationships with the younger students while providing information about Pakistani culture and customs. Student Kelsey Jones notes, “Being an ambassador helped me gain self confidence and it felt good”. Having shared three cups of tea, the sixth graders expect to continue to visit with their new “families” throughout the school year.
The project has truly been embraced by the entire school community. In art, students made puppets which they dressed in Pakistani clothing with teacher Jane Snider. In math, they designed quilt squares depicting Persian art designs while showing their understanding of transformations with teacher Margie Nichols. The completed quilt is currently displayed on a wall in the school corridor. Also in math, students estimated the number of pennies held in one 20 gallon trash can, as well as working toward strategies for making better estimates. If their estimates are close, the sixth graders have already reached their goal of $1000.
Technology teacher Abe Knowlton has assisted in a variety of ways, included setting up “ePal” accounts for sixth graders and Mrs. Sprague. Julie Grindle, teacher of the gifted and talented, has been instrumental in increasing community awareness of the program, as well as providing daily announcements to the school community about the progress of the penny collection, and unique stories about contributions and contributors.
Pennies have come from students, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Jars of pennies that have been collecting dust in area closets have been brought to the office, or carried in by students. Former teachers, community leaders, and nearby schools have come forward to support the program. The penny collection will continue through the end of January. A local bank is making plans to assist in the conversion of the pennies to cash, which will then be transferred to the Central Asia Institute to support the building of schools.
A community-wide celebration is being planned as a culminating activity in early February. The grand total will be unveiled, and students will have an opportunity to share what they have learned and how they have grown through this project.
It is clear that our students at Hancock Grammar School have increased their understanding of issues facing our world, including recognizing the needs of others around the globe who are less fortunate. They have learned not to accept the stereotypes portrayed about those of other cultures. Sixth grader Izzy Simbari wrote in a reflection, “I have learned to be more aware of what’s going on in the world outside of the United States and to respect other countries’ cultures that may seem different to me.” Most importantly, they have learned that they have the capacity to affect change, and that they can make a difference. According to student Hailey Craig, “Participating in this campaign has made me realize that it is easy to make a stand for something that you feel is right.” It has been gratifying to everyone involved to realize that we will be able to provide much needed support to the education of students, especially girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to watch our students grow in the process.
Addendum: Final Results of the Pennies for Peace Project
The penny collection continued for two months. A local bank was instrumental in the conversion of the pennies to cash. They picked up the pennies, counted them, invited the sixth graders to the bank for a tour, and presented them with a check. It turned out that the school had collected $2066, which the bank then supplemented for a grand total of $2500. That afternoon, an assembly was held, and students shared their stories about this life-changing experience. The grand total was unveiled, to everyone’s amazement. That total was then sent to the Central Asia Institute to support the building of schools. Subsequently, the project earned the school a visit from U.S. Senator Susan Collins, as well as an Exemplary Practices Award from the Maine Association of Middle Level Educators.
CONGRATULATIONS HANCOCK GRAMMAR SCHOOL!!