In the fifth grade’s social emotional learning SEED class at Shipley, teacher Betsy Leschinsky reads her students Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu, about a Ghanaian man born with a deformed leg. He goes on to overcome incredible obstacles and works hard to achieve his dreams, eventually becoming a cyclist and spreading a powerful message that disability is not inability.
Mrs. L loves the book’s message that “just one person can make a difference,” and she uses it as a springboard to inspire her fifth graders to think about how they might raise awareness about issues and topics that mean something to them for the fifth grade’s capstone social emotional learning curriculum’s Think Care Act project.
This year, students teamed up with peers who identified similar interests, researched their chosen topics, and shared what they learned with classmates and the school community through presentations and posters.
Topics included environmental and animal concerns like the impacts of deforestation and pollution, the importance of trees, the benefits of pollinator gardens, plastic pollution and ocean health, as well as endangered and threatened animals like tigers, red pandas, sharks, arctic animals, and sea turtles. Students also explored various social issues like food insecurity, Asian hate crimes, and gun violence, and raised awareness about health concerns like Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.
Though direct action opportunities were limited due to the pandemic, students managed to support local organizations and small businesses like CHOP, Peter’s Place, Morris Animal Shelter, SPCA, Francisvale, and Le Cat Café through their efforts, which included planting a pollinator garden, holding mini food drives, creating a Choose Your Own Adventure digital experience, and sewing toys for sheltered animals.
“The students poured their hearts into these projects for six weeks,” said Mrs. L. “They’re so open at this age and we are planting seeds of kindness—perhaps for a lifetime.”