They are only 7, 8 and 9 years old, but the second- and third-graders in State College Friends School teacher Renée Kredell’s class know they can make a difference for children they’ve never met in developing countries. As part of her class’s theme for the year — “Global Thinking” — her students are collecting bits of rags, paper and string, and turning them into “rag balls.”
“Children in many regions of the world don’t have access to toys,” Kredell said. “They often wrap plastic bags around found objects, such as old clothing and paper to make rag balls. They do whatever they can to create a way to play soccer.”
These homemade balls, however, often quickly fall apart. And the shipments of soccer balls that have been sent to children in need by well-intentioned foreigners are easily punctured or simply lose air over time and become useless without a pump.
Recently, the nonprofit organization One World Play Project created a durable, self-pumping ball, specifically for use by children living in war-torn areas of the world. The ball costs $25. Through reflection, research and group discussion, Kredell’s students decided they could make and sell their “rag balls” for $1 each and use the proceeds to purchase balls from the One World Play Project to send to children who need them.
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“One of the challenges in teaching children about other countries is helping them to truly connect and see themselves in those populations,” Kredell said. “This project is helping our students grow their empathy. They are beginning to understand what those kids might be feeling, what their lives would be like if they only had these few things to play with.”
State College Friends School is an independent pre-K through eighth grade program grounded in the Quaker (Friends) values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Teachers at Friends School have autonomy in creating their curricula. As a result, lessons in science, math, social studies and language arts often “bubble up” from student interests, allowing teachers to enrich learning with practical and creative problem solving and application.
“When students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in creative problem solving,” Kredell said, “they develop greater understanding and deeper passion for life-long learning.”
Head of School Dan Hendey learned about the student-led initiative one afternoon when he observed students at recess practicing soccer moves using the homemade rag balls.
“This is just one example of how the idea of successful learners became part of the State College Friends School identity — a tradition of successful learners ... creative, confident, compassionate.”
Sara LaJeunesse is a State College Friends School parent.
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