Teaching kids what counts

In 2015 Pembroke Primary School embarked on a multidisciplinary journey, where students were encouraged to work with peers, teachers and local experts to solve real-world problems. The students discussed issues such as animal welfare, health and homelessness. It was the idea of homelessness that really struck an emotional cord with the students. Their overwhelming gratitude for all that they have, as well as their concern for those sleeping rough lead to in-class discussions, emails and phone calls to organisations primarily based in Melbourne. Despite the students’ keen interest, it was unfortunate that this is where the ‘action’ aspect of their problem solving journey ended because of long distances, lack of connection, age limitations and perceivably unattainable goals.

However, it was only by chance that I stumbled across the Ripple Kindness Christmas Care Project on my Facebook feed months later. I instantly thought of the children in my Grade 5 class and wanted to share it with them immediately. I showed the children the flyer and asked if it was something they would like to investigate further. Considering they had done so much research into the impact of sleeping rough they were already leaps and bounds ahead of me and my idea for this project. Immediately they came up with fundraising ideas with the goal of completing 2 full backpacks. The very next day, the Grade 5 children were bringing in items from home and sharing the flyer with the wider community in our newsletter. We were flooded with goods from our generous school community, though it did not stop there. Our annual production was based on Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ and to build schema and understanding of the characters and the setting, we were having a whole-school screening of the film. The incredible children in Grade 5 and 6 decided to hold a ‘Candy Bar’ stall to raise money for the Ripple Kindness Christmas Care Project. All items were donated by the 5/6 children, pricing and advertising had been created by them and the stall was set up to a fantastic standard! Amazingly, we raised $300 on the day (half of which went towards the Relay for Life initiative, which we also contribute to each year).

After collaborating with the incredible Lis from Ripple, we learned that the goods we had collected would suffice in finalising the backpacks and that the money we had raised would be better spent on gifts for children in the local community who may otherwise receive very little this Christmas. It was this moment that our humble little project goal turned into being far greater than we had ever anticipated. The students were excited by the idea of their fundraising going towards toys for children in need and trusted Lis and I wholeheartedly to choose a range of toys. This was a great end, but was not the best possible conclusion to their amazing journey, so I asked the children if they would like to join me in a fun shopping experience – of course, the answer was YES! Lis gave us the ages and genders of 10 local children in need. I also called Kmart and explained who we were, why we were doing this and how incredible Ripple is, and they were more than willing to put in an additional $50. One afternoon in December, I was met by 10 incredible Grade 5’s from Pembroke Primary School who each had the gender and age of one anonymous child and $20 to spend. With baskets in hand, the children were very thoughtful (and thrifty) in their decision making and ended up filling my car with amazing gifts for local kids.

The entire experience was unbelievably rewarding (it still gives me goosebumps today). For the parents and teachers out there – don’t ever underestimate the power of the minds of our children. Give them freedom to explore, question and show initiative and they will completely blow you away. Their hearts are filled with so much goodness and age should never be a limitation. For the students out there who are wondering ‘can I really make a difference?’ – the answer is absolutely YES! You have more skills and understandings than you give yourself credit for and have a multitude of opportunities out there, just keep your eyes (and mind) open. You don’t need money to get the ball rolling, just an idea and a drive to succeed.

Lastly, to the amazing grade 5/6 children at Pembroke Primary School – you are truly incredible and you surprise me each and every day! You have the power to make extraordinary changes and I am so proud of your willingness to do so. Although you did not see the smiles on Christmas Day, please know that what you have done has touched the hearts of local families who will be thinking of your generosity, perseverance and community spirit year after year. Well done guys! – Bryony, Year 5 teacher

Read about the Ripple Kindness Community Care Project HERE.

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