Monday, June 6, 2016

We Will Change the World by Dave Smith

I'm fortunate that students at Garden Spot Middle School in New Holland, Pennsylvania have really big hearts.  

A large percentage of them know what it’s like to live below the poverty line because their families do, and in turn, they have real empathy for others around the world that live in difficult situations. Some have first-hand knowledge of growing up in a country like Haiti. And they have powerful stories to share with their classmates.  

For example, every day our Haitian student’s family would wake up early to go to school. Then after school they walked for miles with their father, hauling five-gallon jugs from the village well up the mountain to their house, so that they would have drinking water for their family—an amount that would last for only a day.

Just like those students, people around the world have powerful stories to tell. It is critical in this global community we all live in now that every student is made aware of how others around the world live. Living standards are different in most countries, and we’re fortunate here in America. 

As a teacher, the best way I have found to do this is by incorporating the Pennies A Day video. Pennies a Day shows firsthand how the idea of microloans plays out in the real world. Microloans are a critical component to helping end world poverty, so I've made giving microloans to people around the world a key component of our class’s service projects.  

In my classroom, I give students the opportunity to replicate in real life what they see done in the video. We use the website, to lend out $25 to entrepreneurs all over the world.  The kids do what they can to raise money in a variety of ways, and then choose whom they want to lend to on the website, and then we do the loans live in class. It makes it even more real to the kids, and takes the lesson from the kids hearing about it, to seeing it, and finally to doing it. Most importantly, by making it “real” to them, they see that even they--at 13-years-old--can really make the world a better place.  I tell students that we not only can change the world, but we will change the world.  

I had the opportunity and pleasure of hearing my hero, Muhammad Yunus, speak this past year at a local college; and I must say this man is truly a rare, living treasure in this world.  To be able to see his idea come to fruition in this Pennies A Day video in a very concise, easy-to-understand way is awesome. My students can see how such a simple idea can truly change the world and work towards eliminating poverty. Students get real insight into the lives and culture of the people of Bangladesh, and see their homes, their clothing, their food, their cooking stoves, their transportation, and their water sources and so on. We learn the differences between their banking systems, made up of a card table and benches, versus the brick-and-mortar banks students are familiar with here in America. It’s a powerful lesson.

I've now been doing this with my students over four years, and in that time our "One Million Dollar Team" on the Kiva website has loaned nearly $60,000, helping over 2,300 families in 67 different countries around the world- including the United States.

My ultimate goal is to have the kids take on the role of entrepreneurs, to go above and beyond to do things to help raise the money to help others. Some have chosen to do bake sales, others have made duct-tape wallets, while others have made jewelry to sell and have donated their profits.  This lesson encourages them to set goals, and to make real change in the world. 

The best part is to see a real change that occurs in the students’ thinking and behavior. They begin to think globally, as opposed to simply thinking about their own little home town. They can learn about geography, history, mathematics, economics--the possibilities are endless--all the while actually making a real difference in the world.  It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

Thank you,