Throughout the school year, Ross School students participate in service initiatives targeted to fill both local and global needs. From raising money for local food pantries and sustainability programs designed to restore shellfish populations to volunteering time to help wounded wildlife, their commitment is making a difference. The most recent example is the fourth grade’s “Generated by Love: Pay It Forward” project.
“The project resulted from our studies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward,” said fourth grade teacher Alicia Schordine. While listening to Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, the class was inspired by his call to action: “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve; all you need is a soul generated by love.”
Classroom discussions about what it might look like for a child to serve led to the reading of Pay It Forward. At the start the novel, teacher Reuben St. Clair asks his class to come up with a plan to change the world. Ross fourth graders were so taken by this assignment that they decided to create businesses with a philanthropic mission. Working in small groups or on their own, students chose a charity with a mission they identified with and came up with a business proposal, plan, and marketing strategy. They designed posters, informational presentations, and charity profiles.
On February 22, students, staff, and members of the community were invited to the Pay It Forward Market, where the fourth graders’ products were available for purchase. They quickly sold out and raised money for six different charities, including Make-a-Wish Foundation, St. Judes Children’s Hospital, Go 4 the Goal, ARF, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and the Buccoo Reef Trust Foundation in Tobago. With a few matching donations and funds raised from selling their goods throughout the month at the school and in their local communities, the class has raised over $2,000.
For the next phase, students are writing letters to their selected charities to introduce themselves and their businesses, tell why they chose the charity, and share how much money they raised. The goal is to present the money to organization representatives when they visit the Lower School.
“This project has been an amazing experience for all of us. Not only has it been an authentic and meaningful service learning project, but it has also taught fourth graders about financial literacy, economics, business management, nonprofit organizations, business writing, and fund-raising,” Alicia said. “I am so proud of the amazing work and dedication my students put into this project, and so grateful for the support of our wonderful Lower School community. I am sure this will be an experience that will remain with them forever.”