Celebrating Generosity

How do you celebrate the fact that 35 Books to Africa club members came together, created posters, screamed loudly, and inspired students from kindergarten to grade to dig deep into their coin jars and piggy banks and donate to their project?

You play “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang and make sure it’s blaring loudly from the speakers as they walk into the library! We had much to celebrate this morning as I was able to announce our final figures.

Surprisingly, at first I wasn’t sure how to celebrate. As I was kicking around ideas in my head, I realized that maybe the best thing I could do is help them see that their actions are similar to some of the most giving and selfless people in the world:

Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, MLK, Jr.

This is the Sway we watched:


Afterward, it was time to share the news around the school with mini-thank you posters to attach to our big posters already plastered along every wall in school. However, that easy idea, quickly got a bit complicated. When we began, our final number was $1251.04. Woo-hoo!

And then more people came to our meeting today and asked, “Can we donate more money still?”

Five minutes later, we had $1262.54.

Ten minutes after that it was $1288.54.

By the end, we had $1302.54 donated to our cause!

That will pay the postage for 14 boxes of books to be sent to our partner schools in Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. It has been a great week of caring and sharing!

Update: Tuesday, February 2, 2017 Final Coin Drive amount raised:

$1316.44

 

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Coins Change Lives

marty hadding via Compfight

Welcome 2017! It’s a new year to change lives! Precisely four years ago when my students launched our Books to Africa club they learned that simple coins can change the lives of children they don’t even know. All it takes is the belief that everybody matters and anyone can help. That original post in 2013, began a program that links children with books to other children who also love reading, but need books to make their dreams come true.

We’re collecting those coins again this year on Wednesday, January 25th. We will have Books to Africa coin collections stations before school in the front and rear where we will accept any cash donation. Those coins add up and make a huge difference. We will use them to pay for the postage to send boxes of books to our partner schools in Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia. So look under those couch cushions, in your piggy banks, under the car mats for change to bring to school. Coins change lives!

 

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Learning without Borders

This has been a very special couple of weeks for our books to Africa program.Our international reading project was featured in the first issue of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator magazine last week. This magazine is filled with stories, tips and helpful information from teachers. Our article is on page 35 and showcases the impact this project has had on  the teachers and students receiving these books.

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Technology really works wonders with tearing down the classroom walls and bringing the world inside our classrooms. Last week we Skyped with some of the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. We shared facts, we had an impromptu recorder mini-concert and students shared poetry they had written.
Seeing the faces of the students 10,000 miles away made the connection personal and real for the students on both sides of the world. Suddenly they understood how relevant our project is and how we both benefit from it.

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Next week we are Skyping with Thejane Malakane in Maseru, Lesotho using his mobile phone. He doesn’t have internet at his school, but he doesn’t let that inconvenience stop him. A phone with a camera can bring us together as well. In a few days 300 more books will arrive at Thejane’s school where the students will use them for lessons and free reading. It would be quite the miracle if they arrived in time for us to  see his students open these boxes.

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I sent off 4 boxes on April 30th.   As you can see below, the box went from Issaquah, to Kent, to New York, then Dubai, Johannesburg and hopefully to Maseru for its final stop. The tracking information is so helpful because I can see where the boxes are, if they are together and when they arrived at the destination. Sometimes communication between the post office and the schools needs a boost, so I try to let teachers know when the books are there.

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Whether they get there in time for our call or not, we are having a great time packing up and sending off the boxes. We raised about $1500 and roughly speaking that means we will be able to send about 1500 books this year. Since our program started I estimate we have sent about 6,000 books to Africa. We are changing lives one book at a time!

 

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Singing with John Farrell

The singer/songwriter John Farrell entertained our kindergarten students this week with a fun program promoting peace, friendship, books, fun animals and caring.

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Everyone participated with hand movements and singing about ants, libraries, feelings and other fun topics. Here is a short video of his visit.

I am so grateful that John was able to visit our school and I could finally meet him face to face.John Farrell is also the founder of “Bridges of Peace and Hope,” an international, non-profit organization of teachers and students dedicated to promoting education and understanding through collaborative, creative arts exchanges and service learning projects. I joined the Bridges of Peace and Hope non-profit group in 2015, but hadn’t met John yet. When I went to Budapest, some other members and I visited a school also very involved with the program.

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Now I’m looking forward joining the “We Care Because We Care” book project. I think it would be an awesome addition to our Books to Africa project.

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John Farrell has fabulous school programs. If you would like to learn more, visit his website http://johnfarrell.net/ or the Bridges of Peace and Hope website. http://www.bridgesofpeaceandhope.info/

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Fun Animal Research

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To correlate with my library curriculum, Common Core Standards,  and our Books to Africa project, my second graders have been researching facts about land mammals in South Africa. We used our library iPads, the database PebbleGo (I LOVE PebbleGo!!!) and the app ChatterPix (aka ChatterKid).

I am thrilled with the results because the kids were highly engaged through each stage of the process, including the end where they got to record their mini-report on ChatterPix. I documented the process in this Sway.

If you are interested in making a Sway, check out this link. I love Sways because they are incredibly easy to make and embed in blogs without hassles.

This is my first experience with using iPads in the classroom and as with any project it came with its own set of problems because of my learning curve. I really wish there was a way to transfer files with a USB. After working out how to get files from five different iPads to my iPad (thank you Dropbox), I found one BIG area for improvement next year. I have five second grade classes and the video management quickly became very complicated. Next year I will definitely limit each class to an indepth study of one animal. Lesson learned!

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Student Smiles Tell the Story

We had some fabulous news recently from our partner teacher in South Africa! In late February we mailed off two boxes of books to Principal Phuti Ragophala and her students at Pula Madibogo Primary School in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

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Earlier in February, my students raised $1400 in a coin drive to send as many books to our partner students as we could this year.

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The workers at the post office always tell me that it will take 7-10 business days for the boxes to arrive at their destination. Believe me – that’s never happened! More like 4-5 weeks is my experience! In any case, I saw this post on Facebook this week.

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The timing of the arrival was perfect actually. They arrived right before the school was going to close for the Easter holidays. The students were glad to have some books to take home to read during vacation!

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These smiles on their faces really tell the whole story.Students can make a difference in the lives of other students. They just need to be empowered to do it by their teachers and librarians.

How are you empowering your students to be global learners?

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Coin Drive Exceeds Goal

Our Coin Drive to raise money for postage to send boxes of books to our partner schools in Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa exceeded our goal!

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In the course of three days we raised –

http://www.rasaint.net/ - Glitter Graphics
http://www.gigaglitters.com/ – Glitter Graphics

How absolutely fantastic is that?! Our goal was $1,000 and we raised over $400 more than our goal!

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Most of the money we raised was in coins. We had over 4800 pennies donated! It took hours to sort and count the coins. Thankfully there were many volunteers (students and staff) to came to help! We did use Coinstar to count the pennies otherwise it would have taken hours to count and roll them.

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Now that we have money, we can box up donated books and send them overseas! Each student will have the opportunity to sign a book and create a book mark to insert in the boxes.

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In a few weeks, we will see some happy faces from some children who can really use these materials. Here is a photo from Mr. Malakane’s classroom in Lesotho taken last spring. His students often use these books in lessons as well as free reading at home.

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I want to thank our school community and especially our students who donated their own money to help a student in another part of the world.  Your generosity is amazing. Whether you donated a penny or a dollar, every cent helps. Your actions matter!

 

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A Cross Continent Learning Round Up

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What do you get when you combine 120 students in two classrooms in two different continents to share their research? A cross continent learning round up of course!

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This morning (7:30 am Seattle) and afternoon (5:30pm Durban) our two schools – Cougar Ridge Elementary in Bellevue, Washington, USA and Highbury Preparatory School in Hillcrest, South Africa made the world a little smaller via Skype.

Our students walked into the library with breakfast and the boys at Highbury were looking forward to a South African “braai” which is similar to our barbeque. Their head master (principal) was cooking a special kind of sausages for all the 5th grade boys.

The head master of Highbury cooks boerewors (sausages) while the boys Skyped with us.

The head master of Highbury cooks boerewors (sausages) while the boys Skyped with us.

These students broke down the physical classroom walls and connected virtually for nearly an hour. Their conversations crossed two continents and 13,000 miles. It’s a perfect diagonal line between our schools from the northwest corner of the US to the southeast corner of Africa!

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What did they talk about? Fun topics that kids are interested in like what does your school look like, what kind of classes do you take, what can you play on outside during recess and breaks, what sports do you play, what are your favorite books or where do you go to get some fast food?

This student dressed for the part as he did a quick explanation of American football and our Seattle Seahawks.

When the librarian Louise MacLeod, technologist Desiree Dunstone and I spoke at Highbury in July, we agreed that our goal was for our students to get to know each other as peers and therefore, the topics they would research and share needed to be kid-friendly. We divided up our 5th grade classes into groups, assigned topics, and the students got busy. For the past 5-6 weeks, the teams have been collaborating and collecting information to share with their counterpart classrooms. Today was celebration and share day!

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Topic by topic team representatives spoke via Skype sharing pieces of their cultures with one another. With only an hour  and 22 topics, we couldn’t go in depth on camera. Each team was only able to share a sentence or two of the highlights of the research. However, with OneDrive, we are able to share the complete research projects with each other and will use class time to view the student work in our respective schools.

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“We like going to Starbucks and MacDonalds.”

It turns out we both enjoy going to MacDonalds and KFC! Starbucks isn’t in Durban yet, but we both have Burger King. One group also helped us understand what the Durban “bunnychow” is (a bread and curry sandwich).

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KFC is popular in Durban.

 

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A camera, computer, Skype and a great internet connection brings students from different cultures together.

We learned about the Big 5 animals and how there is a serious poaching problem of white rhinos in South Africa. The rhinos are killed for their tusks which are then sold to people in other countries who believe the tusks have medicinal qualities. This group in the video explains that the African elephants have ears shaped like the continent of Africa.

I’ve never taken on a Skype experience on this scale before, but I can say it was worth every second of preparation time. I have listened to the excitement build for weeks and then to see students connecting with each other today was priceless. This morning we were all a little nervous and a lot excited before our call began. Yet, the nerves melted away as everyone discovered we are all the same – just separated by continent. These virtual connections make the world a smaller place and bring the learning inside – without borders. It was hard to say goodbye and I know this is the first of many learning opportunities our students will make.

"Thank you Highbury Prep!"

“Thank you Highbury Prep!”

If you want to learn more about how you can use Skype in the Classroom, visit the website. Join the Skype-a-Thon on December 3-4, 2015 and be part of a global movement to celebrate learning without borders. If you would like to learn more about our connection with Highbury Prep and Books to Africa program, here is a post about my trip to South Africa, a video , and a recap of three years of friendship.

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Succeeding Through Failure

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I sent off our last shipment of books this week to our partner schools in Lesotho and South Africa. It’s been an incredible year of fundraising, gathering donations and shipments. We raised a total of $2088.50. Sent 23 boxes of books and 1545 books altogether.  Wow! Taking that final photo yesterday made me wonder what will get to South Africa first. The boxes or my suitcase???

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Yes, I’m going to South Africa! Woo-hoo!

We have been involved with our Books to Africa program for three years. During this time, I have had the chance to get to know the teachers we work with quite well despite the fact that we live thousands of miles apart.  I am immeasurably grateful to the Microsoft Expert Educator program, which connected me with our partner teachers. If not for that program, I know I never would have met these teachers.

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It’s been my wish for a couple years to visit the schools where we send books. I applied twice for a Fund For Teachers grant to enable me to go to South Africa to study children’s literature and extend our partnership. Twice I was turned down. The second time it really hurt. I had put hours and hours of effort into my application. I revised it with advice from members of last year’s committee. I submitted a draft this year and got valuable feedback on what would strengthen my application. I put everything I had into the application and it didn’t work.

When I told one of my classes I didn’t know what I would do if I wasn’t accepted, one of my students said, “Why don’t you go anyway?”  I had all sorts of excuses for why I couldn’t, and I stuck stubbornly to the belief that I would get the “You are a Fund for Teachers 2015 Fellow” letter that day.  When I  got “we regret to inform you” letter, I was crushed. Immediately I thought I was a failure. I had tried my best and I still failed. How could that be? I had a very big pitty party for myself all afternoon. Yet, the words, “Why don’t you go anyway” kept ringing in my head. 

I also thought about how we teachers  are role models for our students. If we can’t accept failure, learn from it and move forward, how can we ask our students to do the same? So, after finding some amazingly priced airline tickets, and the “I’ll be disappointed if you don’t go” message from my husband, I took that failure and turned it into a success story.

In exactly 9 weeks I will be boarding a plane and flying to South Africa to visit three of the schools and teachers that we work with on our project! I am so excited.
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First, I will fly into Johannesburg (purple circle) and spent a couple days visiting some historical sights and recovering from 26 hours of traveling. From there I will fly to Polokwane (formerly called Pietersburg). I will spend 4 days visiting Pula Madibogo Primary School. Phuti Ragophala, the principal of this public school is trying very hard integrate technology into the classroom and  make changes for her students. I will have the chance to teach some lessons and work with some of the area teachers about how to get students inspired to read.

From there, I will fly to Durban on the Indian Ocean coast. I will spend a week in this area and visit two or three more schools. Our partner school Highbury Preparatory School is here. This is an all boys private school located in Hillcrest, South Africa.

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They partner with Ndlokolo Primary School, a semi-rural school near the Inanda Dam in the Valley of a Thousand Hills outside of Hillcrest, South Africa. They have had a ten year relationship with Ndlokolo Primary School, sharing visits between the two schools for 7th graders, an annual Easter egg collection and food collection project designed to collect food for the numerous children who attend school without having had breakfast. They also deliver the books we send to Highbury Prep.

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I may also have the opportunity to visit the all girls school in the area as well. St. Mary’s School is in Kloof, South Africa and a short distance from Hillcrest. I’ve never actually visited an all girls or all boys school, so that experience will very different than school in Washington.

Words can’t really fully describe how much I am looking forward to this trip. I’ve never been to Africa or traveled this far by myself. It’s going to be an adventure of amazing proportions. I’m crossing my fingers that I will be able see some of the Big 5 animals (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino) while I am there too.

Between now and July 15th, I’m trying to figure out what books to take and lessons to share. If you have any advice for me, please share it! There’s nothing worse about going on an adventure and then saying, “I wish I had thought of ….” or “I wish I had known….”. I will be sharing photos via social media and on this blog as much as I can or as internet cooperates. Look for the hashtag #bookstoafrica15

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The Dream Continues

Books to Africa: Year Three

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In  September 2012 when my students and I began our Books to Africa project,  their dream was to help other kids. They wanted to matter and make a difference by sharing books. They love to read and wanted to make sure that other kids had the chance to be readers just like them, no matter where they live in the world.

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That was the dream. We didn’t know exactly how things would work out, but we hoped they would. That’s where our partner schools came in. They made the magic happen in ways we couldn’t imagine.

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Who can believe that it’s been three years since we began our Books to Africa program? From the first Dream Team crew to now, each year the program has grown and evolved in different ways. We now have all the K-5 students participating, raising more money, sending more books and ultimately helping our partners in Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa! The first year our goal was to raise $1,000. The second year we totaled about $1800.  I am excited to announce that this year we have raised over…

$2,000

With this money, we will be able to send about 24 boxes of books overseas. I am so proud of the efforts of our students! I know there are some excited children waiting for the boxes to arrive too!

A couple years ago, I was listening to a book on tape and the speaker was talking about planting seeds, except she wasn’t referring to plants, but rather the seeds of ideas. She asked her audience, “What seeds did you plant today?” She explained that often we have no idea how the seeds we have planted have affected others. Her point reminded me of our literacy project and the reading seeds we have planted in different parts of the world.

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When our original team brainstormed the slogan: “Every Child Deserves a Book”  they believed that where you live shouldn’t determine what resources are available to you. Kids here are just like kids in other parts of the world. Books open up a world. They plant a garden of knowledge. They can change the educational course of a child’s life. Here is a video clip from Pula Madibogo Primary School in Sovenga, South Africa. The children wrote a song and recorded it for our students. It’s a great reminder that the actions we take do matter to other people, even when they live on the other side of the world.

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We have had numerous fundraisers since January including Friday Fun Night, Multicultural Night and Lollygrams. Many other people donated money for postage, including a very special group of my friends who don’t even have children at our school. A special shout out to my “Girls Club” friends for your belief that all children should not only have the right to read, but also have the materials they need.

 

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