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29293: (news) Chamberlain: Schoolkids work for Haiti (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   NEW YORK, Oct 3 (AP) -- At many schools, bake sales pay for trips or
pizza parties. If teachers solicit art supplies, they use them in the
classroom. And when kids grow seedlings for science, they take their plants
home in little Styrofoam cups.
   But at a public school in Red Hook, Brooklyn, "caring is part of the
curriculum," says principal Sara Belcher-Barnes. So when fifth-graders
raised $300 through bake sales, they donated it to Haiti and the Dominican
Republic. When third-graders collected art supplies, they shipped them to a
village in Ghana. And when second-graders grew lettuce and radishes, they
made a salad for a Red Hook senior center.
   "I was happy, because I gave something to the senior citizens," Kymani
Jackson, 8, proudly explained. "They said it was really good."
   Kymani's school, P.S. 27, is one of many schools nationwide encouraging
students to find ways to make the world a better place.
   Its philosophy was inspired by an organization called Expeditionary
Learning Schools, part of the Outward Bound wilderness adventure
organization. Expeditionary Learning -- now in place in 150 schools in 32
states -- helps teachers integrate academic learning with community
service, field trips and other real-world experiences.
   So, for example, Kymani and his gardening classmates also studied math
and science. "We measured things to see how much they could grow, how long
it would take, looking at different timelines, doing germination logs,"
said their teacher, Sandra Vizcaino.
   While they learned a lot about plants, they also learned "they can be
compassionate," said Vizcaino. "Although they're small, they can make a
   Mayor Mike Bloomberg has encouraged schools to form partnerships with
corporations and nonprofits, and some community service has grown out of
those relationships. Elementary schools have raised money for UNICEF
through reading marathons and penny harvests. High schools have
participated in the annual AIDS Walk. And sometimes community service is
aimed at the school itself, with students working alongside volunteers from
Wall Street firms to paint classrooms.
   While improving academics and graduation rates are the top priorities,
"we also want our students, when they leave us, to become very productive
adults. And community service does that," said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman
for the city Department of Education.
   Red Hook is a gritty, working-class and somewhat isolated section of
Brooklyn. Nearly all the students are black or Hispanic, and fewer than 40
percent meet state standards in reading and math.
   "These kids, many of them, will not get out of Red Hook," said Margery
Cooper, a curriculum developer who has overseen much of the community
service at P.S. 27 -- which, along with a middle school and high school
comprise the Agnes Y. Humphrey School for Leadership.
   Raising money for poor communities thousands of miles away helps the
children "recognize that there are people in the world who have even more
needs than they do," she said.
   Robyn Steinhause, a consultant from an organization called Into the
Outside, worked on the Ghana, Haiti and Dominican Republic projects.
   "These kids were amazed by the fact that there were students their own
age, 75 kids to a classroom, who didn't have clean water," she said. "It
shifts their perspective, hearing that, and realizing that they can just
turn on a faucet. They don't have to walk 3 miles to get clean water."
   Ten-year-old Abraham Sanchez, who worked on the bake sales, put it this
way: "Haiti and the Dominican Republic, they have needs. People are sick
over there. They have to drink dirty water, and they need to fix their
houses. So we decided on a plan to raise money."
   Third graders studied Nigeria while raising money to fight trachoma, an
eye disease. They also wrote and performed a rhyming rap song about it:
   "The germs from the pillows get into your eyes/You can also get it from
the Musca flies/It makes your eyes itchy, your eyelids fold in/It makes you
go blind and then your life ends," they chanted in a video.
   Steinhause arranged for kids to meet with experts at the United Nations
and City College, and dancers from Haiti and the Dominican Republic came to
the school. Concern Worldwide, an organization that does relief work in
poor countries, sent a speaker who had just returned from Haiti.
   "It's not about raising money. It's about raising awareness," said Delia
Dunlap, education officer for Concern, which has helped teachers in 30
other New York City schools, too.
   This year, P.S. 27 fifth-graders have agreed on a new community service
project: Through Orphans International America, they're raising money for a
girl they know only from a photograph.
   Her name is Betsy, she is 13, and she is a Haitian orphan.
   On the Net:
   P.S. 27: http://www.ps27.org/home.aspx
   Expeditionary Learning: http://www.elschools.org/
   Concern Worldwide: http://www.concernusa.org
   Orphans International America: http://www.oiww.org