Times sure have changed. When I was in Mr. Pauley’s fifth-grade class, we were mainly interested in afternoon recess to avenge the loss of our softball game during morning recess. The school play was the big topic of the year, and we struggled with learning who the presidents were. For the record, Kennedy was president while I was up to bat at the sandlot games.
The other day, I got an email from Janet Hurley inviting me to come to Isaac Dickson Elementary School to be interviewed by one of her students, a young lady named Mabel. The topic of the interview was to be homelessness, and Mabel was creating a presentation from the interview; she plans to present it on June 2 at the TedX youth event in the auditorium.
Figuring it would be something different to do, I agreed. I mean, how hard would it be to answer a kid’s questions about a topic that I know so well — homelessness. Was I in for a surprise.
I met Janet at the door of the school. After chatting a few minutes about the project, she led me to the classroom where I would be interviewed, and she introduced me to Mabel. Settling into a kid-size chair at a kid-size table, Mabel told me what generated her interest in homelessness.
There had been a fire at an apartment complex in which she had lived. Several families had been forced out of their apartments because of smoke and water damage and had nowhere else to go. This got her to thinking about the broader topic of people finding out that sometimes bad things happen to good people and they lose their shelter.
Staring me in the eyes, she asked, “What can we do to end Homelessness in Asheville?” POW. This young lady cuts right to the chase — in the 5th grade and she’s asking questions that many adults don’t have the _____ desire to ask. I figured out immediately that this little lady had given the topic some thought and wasn’t going to be put off lightly by a grizzled ol’ vet with some tried-and-true answers.
After an hour of getting peppered by questions, I was ready to head outside for a smoke and to hunt down a cup of coffee. Janet joined me outside, and while I smoked one we chatted. She shared more about the program that was coming up.
Besides homelessness, some of the topics the kids picked to work on were autism, the impact on wildlife and the environment caused by throwing trash out the window, poverty in Haiti and a better school-lunch menu.
And Ms. Libby Kyles’ fifth-grade class was partnered with Janet to create the Writing to Change the World Project. The project focuses on global issues, using writing as a vehicle to show support, protest, persuade, explain and entertain — five things that many adults don’t seem to have the ability to do.
Even the website, http://www.tedxyouthisaacdickson.org, was researched, created and written by the fifth-grade students.
Yep, times have changed. Except that part about wanting better school lunches.
The brown bag lunches with topic mentors are going so well--if you haven't had your chance yet--be patient. I am lining up someone for each of you to talk to--some in groups--and it will happen.
Still waiting to hear back from topic mentor possibilities re:
Everyone who has come in to eat lunch with a student to help them explore their topic has had wonderful words to share--
C____and B____ are already making a difference in the world. I'm honored and thrilled to be involved in this incredibly special process for them. My heart sings knowing our time together will culminate for them to publically hold their torches even higher! I am inspired by their commitment!
Cathy Williams, Mother Hen Project
Had a great time with the kids! I enjoyed it immensely!!
Val Kula, Education volunteer with Animal Compassion Network
I thought it was great... If I did my job, we'll have potential new climatologists in a few decades! The kids were great. Thank you for allowing me the chance to speak and meet with them.
Jenny Dissen, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites
Really impressive young people..
Monroe Gilmour Western North Carolina Citizens for an End to Insitutional
We are beginning to meet with topic mentors. What are topic mentors? They are folks who can talk with you about your topic--they are very well-informed or even, experts. Their role is to help you explore...by giving you some information you hadn't considered and probably couldn't find in the library or on the internet. Last week, students met with Monroe Gilmour from Western North Carolinian Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry and with Jenny Dissen, from the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites.
Mr. Gilmour met with three students to talk about the crossburnings that happened last year in Asheville, to talk about the work the organization does and to help the students explore what young people can do to take a stand against racism. Of course, just a few days later, Isaac Dickson Elementary marched through downtown Asheville as part of the Take a Stand Against Racism day. One of the students who met with Mr. Gilmour was even quoted--and mentioned Writing to Change the World.
Ms. Dissen met with two students who are working on presentations that involve climate change.
Here are some pictures, more soon from the meeting with Ms. Dissen,: