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Sloane PS Makes a Difference

Friday, October 20, 2017
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

Making a difference in the lives of others is meaningful and rewarding.  Giving students in the TDSB opportunities to explore social justice issues and having them take action, results in a new generation of social change-makers.  Sloane Public School, through an intense inquiry project on poverty, has sparked an interest and passion in students to go beyond simple awareness toward global activism.  In our current world of conflict, it is even more pressing that students make their voices heard and become empathetic champions of change.  This is what the What If … ? Poverty Project set out to achieve and accomplished.

Staff first engaged in sessions of professional development which was a catalyst for heartfelt and meaningful discussions.  These discussions shaped a plan of what staff thought they would teach students at Sloane.  Direct teaching about poverty and homelessness, through the use of picture books, was woven into lessons for all classes.  Opportunities for action were presented and the students committed to helping others alongside their parents and the entire community.

Staff members were able to see the growth of their students through follow up discussions in the classroom.  They were also able to identify and voice their own mind shifts.

“One thing that stands out for me is the wide variety of literature that the students got to read and talk about.  Many students were not aware of the poverty that exists in Toronto and throughout the world and the books helped them to gain an understanding of the issue.  Students were given information about what is currently happening in their city, a window into the life of kids everywhere with those circumstances.  It also helped them cultivate a sense of empathy for the kids who may be experiencing poverty or to realize that if they are affected by poverty they are not alone and can get help.  Furthermore, they were provided with real life opportunities to help.  Through these experiences they learned that they don’t have to wait until they are older to have a positive impact on the lives of others,” says Robyn Meades, Grade 3 Teacher at Sloane PS.

“For elementary school teachers, character education is woven into daily instruction. The question becomes, how do you actually teach a child to fully comprehend values like integrity or empathy? We can read books, show video clips, share ideas through writing or have discussions. Better yet, we can roll up our sleeves and engage in activities that will allow us to directly experience these important values. The problems of the world can feel overwhelming, especially for young people. It's our job to demonstrate the idea that every positive action, even seemingly small, can make a difference. Our students may not remember everything they learned in school, but I am certain that the food-packing event will not be forgotten. The optimism was palpable as the students worked cooperatively towards a common goal. Working on an assembly line to pack meals for people who struggle with basic nutrition is a powerful experience that will hopefully inspire our students in the years to come,” comments Grade 4/5 Teacher Susan Davis.

“After listening and participating in the presentation on poverty, I became aware of my own preconceived ideas on this important issue. I came to understand that every person who experiences poverty has their own personal struggles and they often do not have the means to escape the cycle of poverty themselves. It is clear that we all have a responsibility to look out for one another without judgement or condemnation, and only when we start this process will we be able to assist others in decreasing the level of poverty in our city,” recounts Daniel Barida, Grade 4/5 Teacher.

Through this project the students gathered background knowledge, made connections and visualized a better world.  They took steps to creating a better world by fundraising, collecting food, packing meals and doing a clothing drive.  The documentary “What If … Questioning Poverty” video that was created by Sloane highlights all the things that went into this particular project and that Sloane staff and students are happy to share.  It is their hope that viewers can find something of value in the documentary to start discussions about poverty and homelessness in schools, in homes and in communities.

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