DIXON – On a visit to Reagan Middle School, I asked a seventh-grader why she thought it was important to help Africa.
Her social studies class, taught by Tracy Kitzman, raised money to help impoverished communities there.
The answer I got was something that would’ve passed on final exams on my African history class at the University of Illinois, mentioning colonization and war for the cause of famine there.
I loved geography, growing up, it was one of my favorite subjects, but I did not have that kind of understanding of the world at seventh grade. I needed to go to college to understand that.
There’s definitely something special going on.
Kitzman’s class raised $4,792 to buy wells in Africa for areas without clean drinking water. They also contributed to tornado relief in Oklahoma and the Dixon Food Pantry.
A pair of Reagan sixth-graders, Kelsey Horton and Jozi Dever, raised more than $1,200 for the Moore, Okla. School District that was devastated by a tornado.
Students didn’t reinvent the wheel raising the money. They sold concessions, hosted a talent show, collected spare change, etc.
Most impressive, however, was the learning achieved through these exercises.
I don’t know if the students were aware of it, but they were becoming familiar with the geography of Africa and the United States, developing communication and teamwork skills and learning to take initiative.
These skills will take them far, and I applaud the adults at Reagan who are encouraging these students.
I think I speak for most when I say, junior high school is an awkward time. As long as students stay busy and work together on projects, though, the learning will take care of itself.
Derek Barichello's “office hours” will be from 1 to 2 p.m. today at Books on First, 202 W. First St. Feel free to stop to ask questions, suggest story ideas, or just chat.
He also can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-798-4085, ext. 526.