During week one, Tina and I lead the students through an exercise called Blue Sky, which culminated in the students recording their dreams for our world on a cloud.
In the coming weeks, students identified one local area they wanted to work in and one further reaching area. They discussed everything from clean water in Africa, and education for girls in Pakistan to our local food pantry and the Friday Friends backpack program. In the end they decided to do something to help the animal shelter locally, and on a bigger scale, they wanted to do something to come along side the adults in our community who reach out to the homeless in Omaha each Friday.
Our next step was to form teams to work on each project. In those teams, the students came up with a plan and took the responsibility to execute that plan. They made phone calls and met in person with people here in our community.
The Animal Shelter team originally wanted to volunteer time to walk dogs, play with cats and maybe clean out kennels. After talking to personnel at the shelter, they found out that the animal shelter's insurance plan doesn't allow for volunteers younger than 18 years of age. We discussed how our plan made us feel good, but we needed to do what would help the shelter. So they went back to the drawing board, asked the shelter what their needs were and came up with a new plan. They searched Pinterest and found many ideas for making toys for dogs and cats from items that we could collect without raising money. Some of the ideas worked and others did not. Through trial and error, the students came up with several designs that worked.
They also designed a cat house to donate.
Dakota even put a plea on Facebook for donations.
She came in with a box of donated items as well as a case of cat food.
Students also called a local business to see if they could donate pet food that has passed it's expiration date. They found out that there are laws that won't allow that.
Next week, we plan to deliver our donations to the local shelter.
Our other team had some personal connections to people who go to Omaha each Friday to reach out to the homeless there. That team started with a long list of ideas to help out. Could we make peanut butter sandwiches to donate? Did they need pancake mix? What about coats, gloves or hats?
They had a meeting with the adults involved and found out that there really wasn't a need for sandwiches. They could use pancake mix, but our students didn't have a budget to work with for purchasing that. They found out that there is a huge need for blankets, hats and gloves. The boys went to work seeking donations for these items. They contacted a local thrift store. They put out a plea within our group. They also contacted our local middle school and high school to see about collecting donations from other students in our school district. They are still working on collecting those donations, but have a large pile of blankets and sleeping bags already. They also have some books that will be donated to the homeless. We plan on delivering items to a local church next week, where they will then be taken to Omaha and distributed.
It has been a wonderful learning experience and students of all ages have worked together to make this project happen. We plan to try this process again in the spring. At that time we hope to let the students take even more ownership and responsibility in creating another plan to reach out and make our world a little bit better place. It is our hope that our students will see that they can do big things!