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Kids and money can be a powerful charity combo. Here’s how one teacher and her second-grade students used books to buy back a piece of the rainforest.
The Oscars have nothing on grade-schoolers when it comes to after-parties. When school lets out for the summer, there’s on onslaught of end-of-the-year picnics, movie nights, classroom fiestas and class-mom pizza parties. But for Susan Boyd’s second grade in Tenafly, NJ, school was still in session. Determined to squeeze in one last lesson that would connect kids and money with charity, she found inspiration from her students’ favorite topic: Dirt.
Kids have a way of snowballing one idea into the next, so Ms. Boyd wasn’t surprised when a unit about soil and erosion led to a discussion about the rainforest. It’s not part of the second-grade cirriculum, she explains. But it is connected to the demise of forests into a desert once the trees have been cut down. They wanted to better understand, so their teacher dedicated some more time to teaching them about what the rain forests had to offer and why they were endangered. With facts like ‘one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second’ swirling in their heads, the children were very upset about what was happening, she says. That led to talks about what these kids could do to save the planet. “It’s important for children to learn about philanthropy at an early age,” says Ms. Boyd. “So we decided to turn one of the year-end picnics into a used book sale that would raise funds for the rainforest.”
All the second-graders in the school brought home a letter announcing the sale and the books soon poured in. “Students brought in bags of books to sell,” says Ms. Boyd. From a parent’s perspective, it was an easy way of unloading books that their kids had outgrown. Clutter reduction, more space on the shelves for new books—who wouldn’t want to get in on that action? And kids who didn’t bring books in had the option of creating their own works to sell.
It took just a few hours to organize the titles, and a group of moms volunteered to help sales at the picnic. But the clerks weren’t limited to adults. “At least six of my students spent most of the time with me [selling] and didn’t play with the other kids. I was so proud of them!”
A side benefit to the sale? “The great thing about selling used books is that the kids could have “new” books to read over the summer, and we didn’t have to kill any trees,” says Ms. Boyd. Because students read at all different levels, books that some had outgrown were perfect for others who were just staring chapter books or who had just discovered the hilarity of the ‘Wimpy Kid’ diaries.
At the end of the picnic, the children raised enough money to buy an acre of land in the Australian rain forest and 60 trees in the Brazilian rain forest. “I know the students were really proud of themselves—as they should be,” says Ms. Boyd. “It’s really good for kids to do things for others. It helps their self esteem.” And if it spread to schools everywhere, it just might help save the planet.