MINERAL POINT, Wis. - While most students at this time of the school year are closing out the school year by going on field trips, having picnic celebrations, and anxiously awaiting summer break, Second Graders at Mineral Point Elementary school have been spending their last days of school studying philanthropy and how they can make a difference in the world both globally and locally, all while improving their own reading skills.
Their story begins four weeks ago when they were studying nutrition and world hunger. Students were shocked to learn that 1 in 8 people will go to bed hungry each night. Then they learned about Heifer International-an organization that “provides livestock for struggling families who have few resources and need an ongoing source of income,” and how those “gifts help families lift themselves to self-reliance” (Heifer International). They continued to learn about Heifer’s cornerstone, “Passing on the gift,” and what it means to be a philanthropist-someone who gives their time, talent and/or treasure to help others. That’s when they decided to join Heifer International’s Read to Feed program. This program encourages students to read while raising money to provide resources and training to families in need all around the world.
Students launched their philanthropic service learning project by creating a video (http://animoto.com/play/JzForrbzBz6bUynLfx0JNQ) to share with their families and community about their new endeavor and to gain support. For every $1.00 donated the entire 2nd grade would read 10 minutes. Within only a few days they had raised $200 (2,000 minutes of reading). Then Cummins Emission Solutions of Mineral Point heard about their project and wanted to support their efforts to help families around the world and increase personal literacy skills. They generously donated $400.00 (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1509924259231198) and yet the students were up to the challenge of now reading over 6,000 minutes…and they wanted to read more! (http://animoto.com/play/H7K5h0e4IzcrLRSsZTbIVg ) The Class of 2024 also wanted to make a difference locally, so they decided to use their talent for reading and use their time to visit the residents at the Mineral Point Care Center throughout the next few weeks.
“Students spent a few mornings talking with special 'Grandfriends' and reading to them,” explained Marcia Roberts, second grade teacher. “This gave them a compelling reason to practice their basic reading and fluency skills.”
Through the Read to Feed program, students also learned about keeping promises and being accountable for their actions. With over 6,000 minutes to read, students had to get creative and find different ways and times to read.
“If we skip recesses we can read during that time,” suggested one student. Another’s solution was to, “read ALL day.”
“One goal of this project was to really get the kids excited about reading. At this age and time of year some students begin to get ‘bored’ with reading,” said Penny Wiegel, second grade teacher. “One way we kept the extra reading exciting was to have special family members and community members be ‘Mystery Readers’ and read a favorite story aloud.”
Students were so energized that they even decided to read extra at home so that they could meet their challenge. “We also wanted to encourage the kids to become life-long readers. We wanted them to understand that reading is an important life-skill, not just something you do when you open a book,” explained Kimberly Diefenbach, second grade teacher. “One way we encouraged this was to explore the town of Mineral Point through a walking field trip and read all the signs and menus we could find.”
During one of these trips, two local businesses, Mitchell’s Hardware Store and High Street Sweets, heard about the students’ project and success thus far. They wanted to surprise the students and congratulate them so High Street Sweets opened their doors at a special time and Mitchell’s Hardware Store bought candy for all the students (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1510271015863189) At the end of the two-week collection drive, they raised $1,000 (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1510501939173430 ) and decided to buy one water buffalo, one biogas stove, one flock of chicks, a pig, a goat, an irrigation pump, and send a girl to school through Heifer International.
Mineral Point second graders have truly learned that they have the power to make a difference in their world and within their community. By simply using their time and talents, and by working together, they can surpass their goals and beat any challenges put in front of them, even reading 10,000 minutes and raising $1,000. Local and global community service is not just an aspiration in Mineral Point, rather it has become a reality for these young philanthropists.
(The photo is one that we took to thank the community for their support of our project and for our corporate sponsor.)
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