On the Monday after the earthquake and tsunami, I waited anxiously for my students to come in. I was thinking of two girls in particular....Nao and Jasmin. Were their friends and families okay? Would they even be here today? Would I be able to keep my mind focused if this was happening in Ontario? Probably not. I had only lived in Japan for 2 years but the recent events had shaken me. So, how could I expect them to listen to me babble on about double-digit multiplication? Could anything be more insignificant than multiplication today?
I was still struggling to find meaning in multiplication when my class came in. Well, they actually BURST in. They came at me all at once, talking at the same time, about the same thing. Tsunami! Earthquake! Japan! The class knew, they were up to speed, and they all had something to say about it. Above the fray, I managed to find out the Jasmin and Nao's family in Japan were all present and accounted for. Also, judging by their demeanor, they seemed to be coping well and were just as eager to talk about what had happened. I honestly couldn't keep up with them, I had soon given up on getting them to sit down and I already realized that my first lesson of the day would be loooooong gone....heck, the whole morning was looking like a lost cause at this rate.
I didn't mind so much though...mainly because above the chatter, I was hearing some wonderful things:
"We could make coin boxes.....like for Haiti..."
"...sell flags of Japan...."
"Why don't we have a bake sale?"
" ....I know! A dance!"
"Origami! Like at Jasmin's sleepover..."
"POSTERS! POSTER ALLLLL OVER!!!!!!"
It dawned on me that I had a little group of crusaders on my hands...they had the weekend to process what had happened, had already talked with their parents about it and were now ready to act.
The key was to get them organized or even better, to get them to organize themselves. I asked a few questions, I already gathered that they wanted to raise money but they needed to consolidate their plans:
What activities could we do to raise money?
The class had a catalogue of ideas. I quickly wrote down anything and everything they came up with.
Which of these activities easy and quick to organize?
Students had already decided that they wanted to help Japan RIGHT NOW. They felt a sense of urgency and agreed that immediate action was imperative. So, I stressed to them that elaborate projects that required a lot of rehearsal (such as a concert..which was suggested), although good ideas, may not fit our desire to get something going quickly. This question alone eliminated a lot of ideas!
From here, I decided to add my own two cents and suggest:
Maybe we can do a theme of some kind? I don't know....maybe a Japanese theme?
That further narrowed and refined their brainstormed suggestions, and added a few new ones. For example, origami and ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) popped up. I found out later that this was mainly due to a sleepover that the students had together weeks before, where the Japanese mother had organized these activities for the students to do.
When will the students of the school be available for these activities?
This was an important question. To get the highest level of student involvement, we would need to choose a time when they would all be free. I also wanted them to understand that volunteering and taking action involves not only giving money, but also giving time. This realization caused the students to suggest lunch. In the end, the draft of our fund raising plan looked like this:
I admit this is not pretty, it is raw! We had circled the ideas that we liked best and decided that we just couldn't narrow it down to one thing! Which is why we decided to do the activities over a week during lunch times. I was surprised and impressed at how adept they were at seeing ahead to possible issues and concerns in implementing their plan. I would like to think that this was due to a previous Unit of Inquiry they had completed earlier in the year. It had students running a business, they had decided to sell ice cream at lunch. Erin, one of my students, commented that our fund raising endeavour was similar and "Our class is the best to do this because we know what we're doing!" Comments like that make my day! Not only was she recalling a unit we had completed months ago, she was thinking of how it would apply to our current situation. So, we decided to make this fund raising a "Phoenix Cafe" endeavour since it was the logo of our previous class business. Anyway. further discussion and refinement brought us to that flyer below very quickly:
In my case, I decided to tweak this into a How to Take Action poem. To start off, we brainstormed what we did over the week to raise money for Japan...warning: another hasty, raw flipchart!
#1 The poem doesn't have to rhyme.
#2 The sentences should begin with verbs, most of time.
#3 It's okay to begin with "Never" or "Always"
#3 It's a good idea to highlight the verbs in some way.
#4 The poem should be about 10 sentences long.
Once the conventions of a How-To poem were agreed upon, they set to work! Using the the brainstorm we did already, the students already had a bank of ideas to work from. They still managed to add their own thoughts and I was pleased to see their personal touches shine through. Take a look!
I thought this was a great way to cap off a successful week! I am always looking for different ways to reflect and this is now another tool for the reflection toolbox!