Monday April 9, 2018
A few years ago, frustrated at how children seemed to be getting the message that bake sales were all that was needed to make the world a better place, Ian Gilbert wrote this for his book Independent Thinking.
Since that time we have been involved in a number of projects in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and also in Nepal to support the amazing work of Garry Goddard and Lincs2Nepal. Through Garry’s eminently practical work (he sees a problem and works to fix it directly) we started to talk about a 'pedagogy of possibility' – building into the curriculum and into school life thought and actions that will help children understand the problems the world is facing and work to do something about them beyond just writing a cheque once a year.
One school that has taken this approach very much to heart is Darton Primary School in Barnsley, a town with its own share of socio-economic troubles but clearly with a very big heart. The school has been supported by Associate and ‘granny with a camera’ Jane Hewitt who was also involved in the Kakuma work. Below is her latest report on the amazing work of these children in supporting less fortunate young people around the world and learning so much in the process:
It’s break time and there are two orderly queues. Laughing and chatting, waiting patiently. Two trollies appear pushed by older pupils. Break time service begins. Not an adult in sight (except the teacher on break duty further down the playground). Not a chocolate bar in sight either as this is a healthy eating tuck shop. The children are self-sufficient. They oversee the money and change, keep an eye on stock so that they know when to reorder and pay particular attention to what is selling well.
10 minutes later the queue is gone, the trollies returned, perishables stocked in the fridge and the money locked away.
This has been happening for the last three years at Darton Primary school in Barnsley. What’s amazing is that the children then donate the profits from this to charity. Some goes to local charities but they decided to ask me to be involved and for two years made regular donations to the Kakuma classroom fund. They invited me into school on a regular basis and we looked at photos and videos of the camp from my visit, we discussed marketing strategies and we explored how to gain support (the local Co-op now donate £20 of goods per month).
Darton is a tiny school who have made regular donations and over the last two years have donated over £1300. Regular assemblies keep the whole have school updated and the children are proud to be part of the ’Tuck shop group’.
This year the pupils decided to work with a different charity that I’m also involved with called Lincs2Nepal. I think it helps if the children have one person that they can relate to who is their link to the charity they are supporting – it makes it real for them. The tuck shop continued as before but this time the pupils had an input into how their money was spent. I invited Garry Goddard, Independent Thinking Associate Lisa Jane Ashes https://www.independentthinking.co.uk/people/associates-a-c/lisa-jane-ashes/ and another Lincs2Nepal helper Helen into school to talk about their work at the Jeevan Jvoti School and with the surrounding communities in southern Nepal, near the border with India.
The Darton children had £250 which Garry suggested they use to buy resources for the children. This was the start of a steep learning curve and a wonderful lesson in practical empathy - they had to consider the weight of items (they would be taken in volunteers suitcases), the cost of items, the purpose, utility and appropriateness of the items and, most importantly, if they were a child in Nepal whether they would they like to receive them?
When it came to the shopping expedition, it wasn’t feasible for the whole group to go but they all wrote letters to say why they wanted to be part of the trip. Six pupils were then chosen and they headed off on the train to The Works in Barnsley town centre where, as they filled trollies with resources, one elderly lady became fascinated and asked what they were doing:
‘We told her all about Nepal and she gave us a fiver - result!’
These resources are now on their way to Nepal where Lisa will film the children using them. She will show them movies of Darton School made by the children themselves with lots of interviews and questions. Technology permitting there may be a Skype call. Lisa, Garry and Helen will bring videos that the children in Nepal have helped them to make. The next £250 is waiting, this time to support an orphanage in Nepal where practicalities such as socks and basic items are the order of the day.
This is real life learning, empathy and caring for others built into everyday school life. A genuine pedagogy of possibility that goes way beyond a bake sale and an outsized cheque.