22 | April 12, 2018 | The glenview lantern School glenviewlantern.com Springman students take philanthropy beyond the classroom Catherine Rolfes Freelance Reporter This wasn’t the average school project. When Tracey Servé told her eighth-grade class in September that they’d have nine months to complete a project with some real-world application, she didn’t know what to expect. But her students have proven that making a difference in people’s lives is child’s play. Keenan Chiarieri is building a carbon dioxide filter that will attach to car exhaust pipes and reduce harmful emissions. Skylar Read is working to vaccinate children in Africa. Tim Noginsky is funding and supplying gently used equipment to underprivileged youth sports programs in Chicago. And that’s just some of the things the 27 students came up with when they were given time in class to research and advocate for their passion projects. Servé wanted to inspire them to be the change they wanted to see in the world. The goal was not only academic excellence, but also creating a class spirit that keeps community and relationships close to its heart. “Letting them work on a passion so they feel connected is key to the project,” said Servé, who teaches at Springman Middle School. “It’s a little bit of a lesson in empathy, but also one that works on the soft skills that we don’t always get to explicitly teach kids.” Apart from normal researching and presenting, she wanted them to learn how to create informational websites or brochures, send appropriate emails or find experts in their fields of interest. And while raising social awareness was important, the task also called for doing something positive for the community or environment. She encouraged the kids to dream big. And they have. Some projects address local needs and others reach internationally, but Springman student Emily Blumberg fills carts with gifts for foster children as part of her eighth-grade project in Tracey Servé’s class. PHOTO SUBMITTED all ideas came entirely from the Glenview students. They happened upon a shortfall in society and set out to fix it. Sophie Gyuk is advocating new composting practices for schools and businesses in and around Glenview. “Food waste ends up in landfills, where it gradually rots and releases methane, a strong greenhouse gas,” said Gyuk, who would instead like to see that waste turned into nutrient-rich and profitable compost. “Methane has global warming effects more potent than carbon dioxide.” In addition to building a website promoting the benefits of composting, she is meeting with Glenview’s Natural Resource Commission and a waste management company to explore options for creating a food scrap drop-off center where businesses, schools and consumers can safely and quickly ditch their compost. “Composting is a great way to reduce greenhouse gases,” Gyuk said. “It’s a problem that can easily be fixed.” Another student, Emily Blumberg, has already seen the fruits of her hard work. She raised $8,500 in the fall through crowdfunding website YouCaring, school fundraisers and going door to door in her neighborhood. By December, she was able to deliver 100 foster kids their “wishes” so they had gifts to open for the holidays. “When I was delivering the gifts, there were a few foster kids there,” Blumberg said. “Just seeing those kids smiling and happy to see me made it all worth it.” She delivered those gifts to Children’s Home + Aid, a Chicago-based not-for-profit that provides support for underprivileged youth and their families throughout Illinois. Each year, it protects, educates and counsels more than 40,000 children and families to overcome the overwhelming obstacles of poverty, abuse and neglect. “Emily’s desire to help others and to do something meaningful over the holidays has been inspiring,” said Sara Irmen, vice president of Development for Children’s Home + Aid. “The maturity and leadership she has shown is truly extraordinary. Emily’s family and community should be very proud.” Because these teens are coming of age during a time when serious global problems strike close to home, they are eager to start making a difference in their community. They are dealing with issues their parents didn’t have to: terrorism, global recession, increased inequality and environmental disasters. Read, for instance, envisions a world without people dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. Every time she raises $39, with the help of global Vaccine Alliance Gavi, she can help fully immunize a child in need. “Many children in Africa do not live to see their 5th birthday,” she said, because the warm climate is a breeding ground for germs. “Immunization can easily protect them from many major diseases.” Fundraising is just one tool these kids are using to advance their passion projects. Others are focusing on raising awareness or changing public policy. Kaya Owczarek and Kristen Castelino are teaming up to address wasted resources by writing a grant that will make recycling easier to understand and more available in our area. Hannah Good is working with the Illinois Association for Gifted Children to help pass a state bill that will allocate needed funds to gifted education. This sort of project-based learning can enhance a student’s education, turning teenagers into more engaged learners. They have to see ideas through to fruition and that involves determination, planning, negotiation, hard work and risk taking. The joy they feel when they succeed, however, and the pride they experience when they realize the impact they’ve made on others and their environment is better than any grade a teacher can give. “The real marvel of it all is just how driven these kids are at making a difference,” Servé said. This sort of inquiry-based learning isn’t a new thing. This movement is inspired by Google’s 20% Time initiative, which allows its engineers to spend a fifth of their work week on any project that they choose. Hoping to encourage more autonomy and creativity in the classroom, teachers across the country have implemented a version of this movement in schools called Genius Hour. Servé’s colleague, Genée Major, introduced the concept to Springman a couple of years ago to her seventh- and eighth-graders and called it Project Wonder. She encouraged students to tap into their creativity by exploring personal interests, asking questions and creating something to showcase their new knowledge. Servé took this model and made it more service-based for her class, requiring students to research, advocate and come up with action plans that will make a difference in the community. “There are 100 children in Chicagoland that will always remember this holiday a being a little bit brighter, having a little more joy, because of Emily’s efforts,” Irmen said. Making a difference is one lesson Emily and all her classmates will always remember. To see all the class projects, visit springmanprojectwonder. weebly.com.
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