In this Year of Mercy we have been asked by Pope Francis to show compassion and to combat disrespect and discrimination. We have the wonderful tools provided to us by Caritas for project compassion with the videos and the stories of the people that need help in our world. These videos allow the students to gain some understanding of what it means to live in poverty and to suffer. Of the 2.2 billion children who live in the World 1 billion of them live in poverty.
For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:
640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
121 million receive no education
443 million school days are lost each year from water-related illness and 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
These statistics are staggering but what do they mean to the children we teach? Do they really understand how fortunate they are? I believe that for these children to have a deep empathy for the other children of the world who suffer from poverty they need to meet them, make a physical connection with them, to hear first-hand what it is like to live in poverty. So last year I went on this journey with my class and it was a really interesting journey. It started with me opening the doors for my kids to the rest of the world and ended with the kids wanting to open the doors for other children around the world.
For us, it started with Skype. We connected with kids all over the world from a range of socio-economic circumstances. We skyped with kids from over 50 different countries but some of the Skype’s that really made an impact were:
- Cheery Children Education Centre in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya
- Children in Nepal after an earthquake had destroyed their school
- MEDF Teaching Farm in Kenya where they teach families living with HIV to set up sustainable farms on ¼ acre blocks.
And what these Skype’s led to was a class full of compassion, understanding and a desire to make a change.
Then the kids Skyped with Justin Miles. Justin is a British Explorer who regaled us with stories of his adventures in the Artic dragging a sled behind him and stand up paddle boarding in Greenland but then he shared a story with the kids that hit a cord. He told them about his visit to Africa and how he saw children at schools who were suffering from disease because they didn’t have the ability to clean their hands and didn’t have any utensils to eat with which in turn led to disease and the kids educations were suffering badly. He asked the kids to help and there was no way we weren’t helping.
When teaching social justice and the SEE, Judge, Act model what better way for the kids to gain an understanding of the process but to talk to someone who has been through the process and then recruited you to be part of the solution. So we joined his spoon appeal. The idea is to collect spoons to send to the schools in Africa to stop the spread of disease.
So we decided to use solution fluency to work out how best to help. Pretty quickly they realised that collecting spoons would make a small difference and that they wanted to make a big difference, so the focus changed from collecting spoons to looking for ways to spread the word to the rest of the world.
So off they went and we brainstormed using Padlet and created a plan. Using Google docs they researched and shared the information with each other, and then with some App Smashing using Pic Collage and IMovie created a video they then uploaded to our YouTube channel.
From there they used the video and the research they shared on Google docs to create a Padlet through which they could share their message with the world. We used Twitter, Kidblog, email and Skype to contact some of the school’s which we had connected with throughout the year to recruit them to our cause. So far we have a school in Dubai and one in the USA who have committed to help. And our mission has not finished yet, so feel free to join us!
My students have gone from learning about social justice to being active advocates for social justice. They now know they can make a difference and change the world by unleashing the full potential of the Ipad, and that’s a big lesson to learn when you’re 11 & 12 years old.
For me the power of technology in Religion lessons is not just in the amazing creative assessment tasks we can do but it is also in the ability it has to open their eyes to the world, opening their hearts to suffering and allowing them to use their creative talents to make a difference in the world.