There were also many opportunities for children to excel in literacy-based activities. Planned, purposeful writing and oral communication helped us successfully articulate our vision. Unlike more traditional writing practices (e.g., worksheets, journals), creating displays, posters and letters to the school community required the children to communicate in a more persuasive way as they tried to convince others to donate. The children had to consider their audience, purpose and voice, and focus on conveying their message in a clear and polished format.
We spent much time examining effective models of written and oral communication. We decided that it would be effective to write letters to all the teachers in the school and share a message during opening announcements. It was rewarding to see the children’s perseverance as they rewrote and redrew until they were completely satisfied with their work.
In addition to writing, the children worked to refine their oral language abilities. We decided we needed to visit each classroom in order to share our message with the whole school community. Because we didn’t always attend assemblies and tended to ebb and flow in our little sheltered world, we were unknown to many in our school. Bringing the children directly into every classroom demystified them; they became powerful and passionate advocates as they voiced their knowledge and persuaded others to help.
Building Empathy in Children
The personal and social development of children is a major component of our program. Young children learn to recognize themselves as capable members in cohesive community that includes all as equal. Children take care of one another and this positive emphasis on social interaction helps set the foundation for future personal and academic success.
It was with great interest that I watched the children blossom throughout this inquiry. Children willingly spent hours engaged in activities to promote their cause. Many families told us children were initiating discussions at home. As the week wound down we continued to receive large amounts of food and even monetary donations. One grandmother said, “Max even asked me if I could empty our penny jar so that he could give it to the donation box at our local church because there are people there who are in need too.” Like the roots of a mighty oak tree, the children had been successful in spreading their message well beyond the walls of our school.