Guest post by Annie Levoy
As my class was reading A Long Walk to Water, a book focusing on the Lost Boys of Sudan and refugees in the country, they started having larger conversations about helping both the local and global refugee populations.
The class watched a live chat with the author and the refugee featured in the book. Students learned more about this worldwide challenge through research and Twitter conversations. All of this left the students wanting to learn more.
At the same time, one of my partner teachers attended a presentation about how to help the refugee population in our own community. A volunteer connected us with the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania, one of the largest refugee camps in modern history.
With the research in hand and now a local connection to refugees, the students created a list of ways they could help. They quickly realized that money wasn’t the only way to make an impact.
Students soon discovered that the refugees didn’t have access to literature. They didn’t have books for students to read. Since we knew there was internet access in certain areas, students recorded themselves reading grade-level books on Flipgrid for the children in the camp.
Students in the camp listened to books they might not have heard otherwise. Our students were able to practice reading and speaking to non-native English speakers.
Through this project, students learned incredible lessons in empathy. My students learned that you don’t have to have much money to make a difference, and that giving your time can make a large impact. They used critical thinking and speaking skills. They made connections between their own lives and those of children in Tanzania.
I feel like my students know they aren’t as fortunate as others, but they often don’t get to see beyond their own city. This project allowed my students to see the bigger picture. They developed empathy and discovered creative ways to help others and learn through service.
Annie is a fifth grade teacher at Forest Hills Global Elementary in Wilmington, N.C. You can connect with Annie on Twitter at @annie_lovoy.