Students plan variety of projects to take on poverty at home, abroad
DIXON – Lizzie Ohme, 12, could count every rib in the picture of Somalian children.
The Reagan Middle School seventh-grader didn’t know much about Somalia going into Tracy Kitzman’s social studies class, but she and Carlie Sherman, 13, are heading up the project to raise money for the impoverished kids.
It’s part of the global citizens project, a concept Kitzman wrote about for her master’s degree in global studies at the University of Illinois.
“We have to let our students be the facilitators more, and the teachers kind of had to sit back and coordinate it,” Kitzman said. “That’s really what I’ve done.””
Through the project, the students in her challenge class – the accelerated version of the course – chose a cause and then figured out what they wanted to do to raise money for that cause, locally and internationally.
Lizzie and Carlie’s pick, poverty, won.
“It’s something that people don’t really think about,” Carlie sad. “When your mom tells you, ‘Eat all your food because there’s starving kids in Africa,’ you still don’t really think about it. You don’t really know how big it is. It’s all over the United States, too.”
Now, all the seventh-grade social studies classes are getting involved in the events planning.
Part of the money that’s raised will be used to buy Somali families animals through Heifer International. The rest (plus volunteering hours) will go to the Dixon Food Pantry, which is run by Kitzman’s grandmother, Delores Kness.
Kitzman is in her second year trying out the project with her Eastern Hemisphere social studies class, and her students’ aspirations have grown in size.
They’re putting on a bake sale this week, and a dance and basketball tournament are in the works.
Andrew Masters, 13, is excited about the T-shirts that are now on sale. (Another family connection: Kitzman’s mother, Sandy Schuler, owns the design company, Dezine 99, that designed the T-shirts.)
“It has some words about how we need to help Somalia, and it’s all in the shape of Africa on the front of the T-shirt,” Andrew said.
Students also will be going to the different homerooms to raise awareness about the multiple famines and droughts that have hit Somalia, a country that hasn’t had a stable government in 20 years.
“When you actually look at it, deep into it, it’s really worse than you actually think,” said Megan Barnhart, another of Kitzman’s students.
She’s one of the “writers” whose job is to summarize what’s being worked on for the website, which is still in the works.
The students hope to at least meet the $620 bar set by last year’s class. (The money went to Heifer International and the Red Cross.)
“I think our youth, especially the middle-school age, get underestimated a lot,” Kitzman said. “I think the public hears the negative sides of what goes on in our building, and I think they are wonderful, positive, strong leaders.”
For more information
Go to dixonschools.org to keep tabs on the project by watching the news feed. The project’s website also will be hosted on the district’s page when it’s ready to go live.