Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cultural Awareness Day in 3rd Grade

A few months ago I had this idea to teach and learn about cultures and countries around the world. 
I was so interested in the history of other countries and when I am passionate about something this reflects in my students too. As I started doing my research and planning out how I wanted this all to go I never imagined how big it would all become. 

This unit has been amazing in many ways, some of which I'm not sure I can even put into words. We learned about China, Uganda, France, Brazil, Mexico and Romania. We spent a week on each country, reading non-fiction articles, asking and answering questions, determining the main ideas of passages, stating our opinion about world history and events, learning to support our work with evidence from a text and so much more. 

This book contains so much and I promise to share with you soon, but I want this particular blog post to be about the unexpected end result of our learning. 

My teammate is like my "work wife". We can't make decisions without one another's opinion.  
We  both knew that we had to do something special. 
The kids were passionate and all they could talk about was how we needed to help the kids of countries like Mexico and Uganda. They couldn't stand to have all of this knowledge and do nothing with it. We considered having the kids make crafts and sell them like a Bazaar, but that sounded like so much work. Not to mention the child labor that was going to go into it all! We talked to our principal to see what she thought. She said something to us that changed our whole outlook on the event. "Why do kids have to give and get something in return?" That was it. All we needed. 
We were going to raise awareness. 
We would ask for donations and give it all a country in need. 
Kids around the world are suffering and helping others in need is 
something we do without getting anything in return. 

Our culture study was over. We ended by having our kids reflect on all that they had learned. They were to choose one country that had the greatest impact on them, the one they would never forget. We also asked them to focus on a country they felt had significant need. 

In the end we chose 4 countries to focus on; Brazil, Mexico, Uganda and Romania. Based on their writing the kids were put into one of the four groups. We talked about what we could do to make a difference in the lives of these people who live in extreme poverty with little hope of a better life. They talked about raising money, selling things, giving their savings. 
After a passionate debate we discussed some key vocabulary: 


We discussed what it means to be an advocate and how advocates work to raise awareness about important issues. We also talked about how raising awareness can have a greater impact than raising money. When you work to make others aware of the poverty that others are suffering from then those people will tell others and the people they tell will continue to spread the word. It becomes much bigger than we might think. We decided that because it wasn't realistic for us to raise thousands of dollars we would raise AWARENESS. We would educate others about what is happening in poorer countries around the world. Any money that was donated was just a bonus. We would invite parents and grandparents and everyone in our school and ask them to bring their pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Whatever we collected would be donated to a country in need, but more importantly we would raise awareness about these important issues. 

 We spent the entire first week of the project preparing for group work by learning to work together, to compromise and following through until the task was complete. More to come on this later, too. 

After that first week the real work began. Students worked as a group to divide up the work. I had prepared ahead of time VERY specific step by step instructions for each job. They looked at the job descriptions and decided which jobs would fit each member best. The jobs included photographers, artists, geographers, writers and speakers. After the jobs were chosen I provided students with the materials they needed and they set to work. 

Ever single thing was completed by students. 
The step by step directions allowed students to work independently. 

Photographers: Chose  6 pictures that best represented their country, cut them out and "framed" them
Geographers: Created a flag to display at their booth
Writers: Studied the articles they had been given and chose 8-10 facts they felt others needed to be aware of. Later, they typed these facts and "framed" them to be displayed. 
Speakers: These students were in charge of studying about their country and being ready to share with visitors at their booth. 
Artists: Each country was given an art project to complete. Uganda made braided bracelets. Brazil made Carnival masks and tom tom drums. Mexico made the God's Eye. Romania made stained glass art. 

Students worked for about an hour a day for four days preparing. 

On Friday, each group set up a booth. We had a jar for donations. Kids even made signs during their recess to hang up around the school reminding people to bring their money. Every class in the school signed up to come and learn about these four countries. The third grade cultural advocates were AMAZING! They were seriously passionate about making sure that visitors knew why they needed to help. 

I never imagined we would have so many participants or that we would raise the money that we did. Between the two third grade classes we raised $430.00! We decided that though we wish we could donate to every country we are going to donate the money we raised to Uganda. The kids agreed that Uganda needs our help the most. There is a trustworthy and well established charity called Kibo. We haven't yet decided on which Kibo project we will donate too, but it is in the works. 

This has been a weekend full of smiles. I feel crazy blessed to be able to teach kids who are so caring and compassionate! 

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