I recently read an article in the LaCrosse (WI) Tribune about a school that is learning more than geography – its students also are learning about how farmers and craftspeople are trying to make enough money to feed their own families. According to the article, the 6th grade teacher of Longfellow Middle School, Karen Wilke, has been teaching this year-long project for the last three years and it helps her students learn not only about places in the world, but also teaches them about what is happening in the world and how they are empowered to make a difference.
In true teaching spirit, the teacher allows the children to choose the charity which will benefit from their marketing efforts, and that charity can be local or global. Last year’s group donated $700 to Doctors without Borders. This past year, the students learned about fair trade and what it means to farmers and craftspeople in Latin American countries. They organized a sale in which they priced the products and included tags on each product which offered information about the person who made the product. What I love about this project is that it really does teach students (and our youngest consumers) that it talkes a lot of work to make the things we enjoy on a daily basis. While most probably don’t drink coffee, they do wear clothes, scarves, and eat bananas – all products that are available through fair trade. Next time they buy a sweater at their local mall, they may stop and think where that sweater was made and bother to look at the tag. Next time they eat that banana at home, they may ask their parents where it came from.
Education is a powerful thing as it really does opens our eyes to looking at the world in a new lense. Arm our children with that knowledge, can you imagine what might happen when they grow up to be more active consumers?
I applaud Ms. Wilke, Longfellow Middle School and the 6th grade students who are taking education to the next level and teaching our fellow world travelers the importance of respect of our international (and local) neighbors. Any school can use this model and teach their students the importance of fair trade in our daily purchases.
-Megy Karydes, Founder