"Change the world. It just takes cents"TM is a student-led, teacher-mentored, PBL, service-learning, experiential education, Tikkun Olam, multidisciplinary process, where lessons evolve organically, and students are the creators of their learning blueprint, rather than being enslaved to textbooks. Students emerge empowered advocates and leaders.
As a fully bilingual Hebrew/English Judaics, social studies and nationally certified (National Youth Leadership Council; NYLC) service-learning educator at Denver Jewish Day School (aka Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy, RMHA, Herzl/RMHA Upper School), I was entrusted with the responsibility as Department Chair to create and implement a Middle School Tikkun Olam program. With no formal curriculum available, I questioned; “How do students understand the meaning of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world? What are their responsibilities as Jews? How do they translate their understanding of Jewish text into action? How do they repair the secular world, using their Jewish perspective? How do I help them recognize and understand the need for the implementation and the benefit of global Tikkun Olam, in and out of the classroom? How can they, as young individuals, make an informed, impactful difference?” I resolved to “think out of the box”. The answer lay in an in-depth analysis of the meaning and objective of Tikkun Olam, through project based learning, service-learning, experiential education and organically evolving lessons, where the students become the authors and creators of their learning blueprint rather than being enslaved to a textbook. The flexibility of this innovative program had no prescribed outcomes other than meeting the students where they were and developing them along their own learning curve.
“Chanoch lana-ar al pi darko – educate the youth according to his path”.
I also drew inspiration from businessman, inventor, television star and philanthropist, Marcus Limonis, whose mantra for success is, “People Process, Product”. Through his 3P mantra, he analyzes every business by the quality of its people, finds the best process for creating, delivering and selling the product, and, finally, determines whether the product is an excellent and relevant one. Of Limonis’ three P’s he values people the most. My people are the students, the process is the “how” to best motivate their learning and actions to deliver the best product, the outcome of their study and efforts. Of the three P’s, my people, my students and their development, are most important, culminating in a fourth P: Power. My students emerge as confident and articulate leaders, each empowered by his/her talent, to be a significant and credible voice in the greater community.
Based on the tenets of Tikkun Olam, Jewish principles, and within the framework of best practices of service-learning as defined by the NYLC, the vision is to create and implement a student-initiated, learner-centered, organically developed, multidisciplinary curriculum throughout our Jewish Day School, energizing the broader community culture. Students are motivated to understand that citizens, individually and as a group, have a responsibility to promote a global culture of peace, and resolve differences without resorting to conflict.
“Change the world. It just takes cents” TM (CTWIJTC) is an educational process based on personal responsibility. I know that the students’ values and experiences will carry over to adulthood, with the individual’s becoming an informed and civically active, communal and global citizen. Through education and understanding of personal responsibility, the network of dedicated citizens will continue to have a ripple effect.
- To mentor, within a Jewish framework, effective future global members of society.
- To empower students, through Jewish and philosophical text, to use social and digital media, communal resources, and visible action in addressing world, national and local current affairs, multicultural human relations and issues relating to tolerance.
- To broaden student awareness of global issues, to expose students to the” big picture” and guide them through a personal and group process to become systematically analytical of “how to” develop and manage a reflexively impactful strategy for positive change.
- To provide tools for students to understand and become knowledgeable, broad- minded, articulate and persuasive spokespeople for international and local affairs, with an eye towards facilitating change.
- To demonstrate that students are “maf-i-lim”, the initiators and motivators for change.
The student-driven service-learning campaign, “Change the world. It just takes cents” TM, emerged from a twice weekly 50 minute class into a citywide, nationally and internationally recognized campaign. Mentoring students through research and analyses of Jewish and other eclectic primary sources without mandatory, prescribed assessments, students demonstrated critical thinking during class discussions, which gave rise to a myriad of original thoughts and questions. Through the process of raising their global awareness, students individually, in pairs and as a cohesive group, developed a sense of moral responsibility as they, with appropriate understanding and empowerment, seamlessly translated their Judaic and secular lessons into action, This empowerment aroused an outpouring of interest, support, interaction and engagement from the broader community, communal leaders, donors, the media, celebrities, politico’s, non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and other experts.
THE MECHANICS OF THE PROCESS:
Preparing the initial twenty three 8th “Greaters” for their Tikkun Olam initiative encompassed in-depth classroom study, guided by school social studies standards and Jewish tenets. Each learning module incorporated a selection of relevant multi-media information: Jewish text, press clippings, internet sources, photography, video and slides, music, art, poetry, NGO informational materials, first-hand accounts, and television documentaries e.g. Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide: Definition of Service Learning and Social Action; IV: The Power of Context; map work; History of the Conflict; V: The Power of the Written Word; XIV: The Power of Art, Poetry and Song.
Note: Over the program’s 5 years, new, enriching lessons reset the Resource Guide’s chronology.
MODULE 1: DEFINING INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
1. DISCOVERY AND EXPLORATION:
On the first day of class, it was necessary for students to delve into the meaning and origin of the words “Tikkun Olam” (Siddur research – Aleinu: letaken olam b’malchut Shaddai). Afterwards,, students defined and reflected on their position and responsibilities as American citizens, Jews and members of various social and cultural groups in today’s world. (Starburst of Identity and Circles of Responsibility – Facing History and Ourselves; Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, IX: The Power of Mutual Respect and Tolerance).
The second step was for students to comprehensively scrutinize newspaper and internet articles, be inspired to become more cognizant of media and online reports and reflect on world issues and current events. “What is of interest to you?” Students, individually, considered which current events aroused their passion, how they related to the issue, and whether it could serve as a basis for future exploration and engagement. Such conclusions were determined by each student via mentored class discussion. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, II: The Power of Guidance)
The final step was for students to individually present an informative snapshot of a global issue and a case for their cause to their classmates. The class developed a clear understanding of democracy, with their “guide on the side”, to vote and make a unified decision, determining their global Areyvut – responsibility. The group decided to address the Darfur genocide and the refugee child-victims of this crisis. Students were initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of their Tikkun Olam choice. Encouraged by the Starfish story (Kohelet Prize: Sample NGO interactions: Starfish story interaction) and by Rabbi Tarfon’s lesson in Pirke Avot, “Lo Alecha Hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben-chorin lehibatel mimena – It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it”, students became more adamant that they had to stand up, respectfully speak out and be heard. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, I: The Power of Purpose)
Teacher reflection: As a key partner in this student Tikkun Olam initiative, the educator’s responsibility was to ensure digestible learning “chunks” and to keep throwing the decision making onus back on the students. Students embarked on an exercise of self- examination (social, economic, cultural and religious) before confronting global issues. Bolstered by their class mentor and teeming with knowledge of basic principles, the spirited student initiative snowballed and swelled.
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, II:The Power of Guidance; III: The Power of a Framework: The mentor constantly challenged students to explore the problem, debate antidotes and solutions and problem-solve (in accordance with best practices of Service-Learning) by asking questions such as: What is global injustice? What is your understanding as a Jew of global injustice? Would youth involvement be meaningful? Would it be mutually beneficial? To whom would it be relevant? Which of your academics would be put in to action? Would your action promote understanding of diversity and mutual respect? Would it promote partnerships? How long would the initiative last? (Community Service vs. Service Learning) How intense would the actions need to be to meet specific outcomes? (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XIV: The Power of Alternatives)
Teacher evaluation: Students were setting the rhythm of their initiative by engaging, questioning, researching and developing a deeper understanding of the elements of their proposed Tikkun Olam problem and its resolution. At the same time, students were listening to each other, sharing opinions, and building their team, based on the same values, beliefs and principles.
MODULE 2: GETTING INFORMED
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, IV: The Power of Context; Background study included geography, map work, environmental studies, history, politics, and culture, covering topics such as history and culture of Sudan, the people and regions of Sudan, Darfur and its people, targeted groups (African Muslims), the oppressors (Arab Muslims and Janjaweed), the history of the conflict and the genocide, the role of world powers and agencies, the environment and natural resources (“Scorched earth warfare”). Audio Visual Materials: “Child Alert: Darfur” – UNICEF; “Conflict in Darfur” – Facing History and Ourselves; “Jihad on Horseback” – Brian Steidle; “ Who’s Who in Darfur” – Frontline; Aerial Images – Scorched Earth – Brian Steidle.
Teacher evaluation: NGO campaign materials broadened student interest in the topic of Genocide and Human Rights, with specific attention to the children of Darfur. Extensive examination and discussion of materials provided by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group, Physicians for Human Rights, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and others sparked students to map those accounts against their knowledge of Jewish history and teachings. Students, on their own, within their specific teams, in order to provide background information for other teams, whose progress was dependent on their providing information, also broadened their understanding about the region, Sudan, the political issue, international influences and the impact of the crisis on the cultural and very existence of the Darfuri people.
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, V: The Power of the Word: What is Genocide? An Interactive class session, examining Raphael Lemkin’s definition of Genocide, other world genocides and excerpts from the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. A key factor in this module was that students understand that genocides cause forced evacuation, displaced communities and refugees, who are unable to return home for fear of persecution and death.
Student reflection: “Genocide is a powerful word meaning the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. Because we,….are Jewish we understand the term genocide all too well. This is why we need to spread the word. Another holocaust is happening now and we need to educate more and more people about it. History is repeating itself and only we, as humans, can stop it.”
Teacher reflection: Ongoing professional development at the USHMM provided in-depth learning and networking with like-minded educators. Sharing strategies and experiences with professionals in the field, enriched and encouraged both mentor and teacher’s aide to continue escorting the students along their path to repair the world. Meeting refugee, Mohamed Yahya, at the conference cultivated what would become a meaningful educational connection to the Darfur genocide and its impact.
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XV: The Power of Historic Lessons: Visual content brought reality into the classroom. After studying the meaning of Genocide (Raphael Lemkin) and the Holocaust, students internalized and expressed their personal connections to the Shoah and how it related to the genocide in Darfur. Using posters and newspaper clippings, students created a Darfur information corner in their classroom, which they kept updating. Throughout the year, students viewed multisensory films such as: MTV – Translating Genocide (www.mtvU.org); Lost Boys of Sudan (www.ushmm.org); Darfur Diaries: Message from Home – (www.darfurdiaries.org); Defying Genocide (www.ushmm.org); Crisis in Darfur (www.ajws.org/darfur); Witnessing Darfur (www.committeeonconsicence.org); Darfur: a 21st Century Genocide (www.savedarfur.org); The Quick and the Terrible (www.pbc.org).
The next step was to learn about other genocides. Students heard personal testimonials from a 2 nd Generation Armenian genocide survivor and from representatives from the Falun Gong community. (Kohelet Prize: Change the World Overview, Part 2, Slide 48)
Teacher reflection: Historic lessons aroused students’ empathy. They asked raw, unfiltered questions. ”How can people do this to each other? How can others just stand by and watch? How can children lead productive lives after witnessing such horror? Having lost so much, how can children become productive citizens after the genocide? ” A calming solution to their confusion was to encourage students to probe the needs and rights of all children to an education, despite race, religion or creed. A healing outcome was to develop a connection with the children refugees via digital media (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, Slide 26). An emotional and joyful moment was experienced upon receiving acknowledgement of their communication from the principal of D’Kaire School, now in the Abu Shok refugee camp. (Kohelet Prize: Samples of Abu Shok refugee camp correspondence: Letter of Thanks from Mohamed Sherif)
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, VI: The Power of Bridges: Comparing and contrasting bi-cultural American Jewish students’ lives to those deprived of freedom, education and security. What constitutes privilege? Necessities? Students examined the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention of 1948 and their application in America, and endorsed the belief that all children deserve an anxiety-free and secure childhood.
.Student Reflection: “There are so many similarities that the children of the United States and the children of the Darfur share. Similarities such as the love and need of education, the love for their families and their love for their friends bridge us all together. If more people realized this the world could be a better place”.
Teacher reflection: As privileged students developed a heightened knowledge and appreciation of their secure status, living freely as Jews in the United States, they recognized the value of education and that the UN Rights of the Child guarantees education for ALL. This provided a snapshot against which they recognized the divide between their entitlement and what they learned was taking place elsewhere. Filled with the fuel of knowledge, coupled with their strong Jewish identity and respect for their values, students felt empowered to raise awareness of the vital needs and rights of Darfuri children.
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, IX: The Power of Mutual Respect and Tolerance: The Pillars of Character Counts Education-Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship- taught alongside Jewish values, Tikkun Olam and Middot (outlined by Areyvut.org) resulted in a round table discussion/ brainstorming session entitled “How can we help the children of Darfur?”
Student Reflection: “Although we are thousands of miles away from the Darfurian people there is still no reason for us to withhold any respect owed to them. They still deserve the same respect and tolerance we would want accorded to us…”
Teacher reflection: When a group of 13-year- old students met Mohammed Yahya, Director of Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy, they asked him, “We are Jewish. Would we offend or embarrass the Muslim children if they knew who we are and what we are doing?” He responded, “Never be ashamed of who you are and what you do, when doing good and helping others.” This lesson in respect, tolerance and diversity fostered an immediate connection between the students and Mohammed. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, Slide 45) This was a valuable personification of the lesson by Ben Zoma, who says; “Eize hu chacham? halomed mikol adam – who is the wise one, he who learns from all men” Piket Avot 4:1 “ It allowed students to clearly view Mohamed’s directive through a Jewish lens.
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, VII: The Power of Humanizing the Genocide: With students’ having a deeper understanding of genocide, the mentor challenged them, through class discussion, to consider and transpose themselves into a situation of the Darfuri children. Together, students wondered, as they read the stories, case studies, poetry and narratives offered by the mentor. Students also interviewed local Darfuri refugees, and then used that knowledge to try to understand such questions as: What do we really know about the victims’ living conditions? What do we want to know about their lives? Culture? Foods? Games? How does it compare to Jewish Holocaust- survivor testimonials?.
Classroom discussion defined a reason for meeting Sudanese/Darfuri refugees:
1. Learning through their stories about discrimination, the dangers of hatred and terror
2. Learning about refugee camps, escape via Cairo to Israel, re-building lives, lost family members.
3. Establishing an email connection through US based refugees with students in Darfur.
4. Establishing empathy for survivors of genocide.
Teacher’s reflection: In order to put a face to the genocide, it became necessary to locate and introduce students to survivors of this 21st Century horror. After the mentor met Suad Mansour, a targeted Darfuri social worker evacuated to the US, it was timely for her to meet local students and factually update them and the community on the Darfur situation.
MODULE 3: TIKKUN OLAM IN ACTION
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, X: The Power of the Proposal: In order to move forward, students researched and penned a written proposal to the school’s administration to “sell” their project and offer an outline for implementation. They needed to objectively define the problem and exhibit creativity in proposing appropriate action to counter it. In closing their proposal, students, as part of their Hebrew language lesson, studied and quoted the Hebrew lyrics to the song by Israeli musician, Arik Einstein, “Ani v’Ata neshane et ha’olam – you and I will change the world”. The approval of the student-proposal (Kohelet Prize: Student Written Proposal) served as a stepping stone for their action, with the proviso that fundraising not clash with school fundraising efforts. At this point, the students gained their wings. Having the go-ahead allowed them to create an identity for themselves as anti-genocide activists.
Teacher reflection: Presented with the framework for a proposal, students worked together in crafting and fine tuning their thoughts on the white board, before formalizing them on paper. As they became more secure, having been endorsed by the school, the students’ raised self-worth led them to start believing in their ability to “take on the world”. From this point, their presence in the community, marketing skills and fundraising efforts flourished.
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XI, XII: The Power of Identity and The Power of Colors (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slides 1, 14-17) An inspiring artwork project, where students worked in pairs and in teams to give their movement an identity and create visibility, helped students define themselves and what they represented. Their freedom of self-determination became evident through the agreed upon trademarked logo. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1,slide 1). Designated colors conveyed the logo’s message. Once again, student teams designed and presented options for the class to vote on. The final decision was for the name: “Change the world. It just takes cents” (a name which they trademarked, with advice from a lawyer) based on the agreement between school administration and the students, to collect loose change rather than conflict with major school fundraising. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 25)
Student reflection: “Each color on the logo represents a different element of hope for the children. The colors are bright and joyous rather than dull and saddening. Each color is a symbol of the freedom and hope that the people of Darfur are hoping for” (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slides 16, 17)
Teacher reflection: It was obvious that a competitive spirit and original thought led to unleashed creativity, though, on final selection, the teams rallied around the winning design. Transcending Middle School social boundaries, the designer, inspired to enhance the logo, recruited the support of a high schooler to digitalize the design, resulting in the finished product on slide 1 of the Power point.(Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 1)
Resource Guide, XIII: The Power of Youth Action: Armed with academic and Jewish textual knowledge of “Emor Me’at v’aseh harbei
(Shammai) – say a little and do much” (Pirke Avot 1:15), students started taking charge of their Tikkun Olam initiative, to raise awareness and funds in favor of education for Darfuri children. They could not consciously untangle themselves from their Jewish roots and obligations. After all, it was Jewish tradition, history, cultural experience, learning and understanding which made them who they were. Because their actions surfaced organically and were interwoven, the process appeared (to outsiders, as) repetitive. Many of the students’ ongoing social action initiatives were concurrent but none were recurrent. Using similar strategies, “Powers” also often became intertwined.
Student action originated with a Children-to- Children email writing campaign to the refugee camp (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview Part 1, slide 26), through which students mastered the art of carefully using politically sensitive wording to convey their support and to ensure messages would pass authorities’ scrutiny e.g. no mention of their Jewish identity, no use of suggestive words, nor to ask about refugee children’s names or location. This was their first authentic engagement, reflecting on real world contentious situations and their complexities. As time passed, students became more creative, more visible in their very identifiable green T-shirts (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 5) and more prominent in speaking out on a variety of levels in support of their cause. An interesting factor was that as many students continued on to High School and college, they remained impacted and connected to the program. (Kohelet prize: Kudos: Kudos Dani, Talia and Zoe)
Because CTWIJTC was replete with many actions, in this description only a selection is highlighted: (A more detailed view into the CTWIJTC Tikkun Olam initiative may be gleaned from the information in the attached folders and in the original Resource Guide, which also provides student reflections for each “Power”)
- In the classroom, students created an expanding Darfur information corner, open to all students, showcasing newspaper articles, pictures, posters, NGO pamphlets, song lyrics, wrist bands, and other relevant materials.
- Students created a meaningful logo as described in The Power of Colors (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 17)
- Students contacted Robinson Dairy to provide unmarked, empty, half-gallon containers, to be used as loose change collection (Tzedakah) boxes. These were embellished with their logo to prominently identify their cause throughout the school and community. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 25)
- Motivated by the success of their initial group money-box collection, students created a collection card, designed to help each student raise $50. (Kohelet Prize: Samples of CTW appeals and actions: Darfur grid fundraiser)
- Students identified sympathetic clothing suppliers and negotiated producing logo-imprinted, financially viable items for resale as part of their advertising and fundraising initiative. This proved to be an effective form of community building and a financially lucrative endeavor.(Kohelet Prize: Darfur Apparel Order forms; Resource Guide, XVII: The Power of Marketing, XXV: The Power of Advertising)
- Given an accounting outline, which included responsible budgeting, recording income and expense, and financial accountability, students implemented their math lessons and learned about banking. Students, then, opened a dedicated CTWIJTC bank account at The Young Americans’ Bank for which, with mentorship from educator and bank management, they were entirely responsible for income and expenditure. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 50)
- Students were coached in speech writing and public speaking. Preparing speeches made explorers and teachers of each student group, as the process involved extensive and rigorous collaborative research and interaction, questioning, critical analyses, challenging themselves and each other, reciprocal evaluation, and endless creativity. Networking with like-minded experts, many who were hosted in their class, reminded the students that one is never too young to have a good idea. These professionals exposed the students to the intricacies of how to effectively relay their message. Students maintained relationships with these advisors. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world, Overview, Part 3, slide 3) (See Kohelet Prize: Samples of CTW speeches)
- Guided through the art of communication, together in class, students prepared a telephone script on the white board before contacting Mr. & Mrs. Cheadle (Don’s parents). The class critiqued the script for elements of accuracy prior to calling, and picked a spokesperson to extend an invitation, on behalf the group, for the couple to attend the first CTWIJTC Student Forum.
- Students employed their knowledge of Hebrew to communicate with new child-refugees (Darfuri and others) attending the Bialik-Rogozin School in South Tel-Aviv, Israel, and commiserated with them about learning an unfamiliar language and different alphabet.
- Students created an outline for written notification to the media, advising of their project and actions. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide: Key facts and points you may want to make in a letter or article)
- Students contacted celebrities such as; Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Anna Sofia Robb, Mia Farrow, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Maya Angelou, Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, to endorse their anti-genocide actions and requesting support of “CTWIJTC”. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XXVIII: The Power of Reflection)
- e.g. Dear Mr. Spielberg, My name is Sam Litvak and I am a student at Herzl RMHA Upper School in Denver Colorado. I am writing to tell you that I greatly appreciate the fact that you chose not to participate as artistic advisor in this year’s Olympic Games. I know that you are the son of Holocaust survivors and you sent the world a powerful message by choosing not to support the Games in a country that makes the genocide in Darfur worse. We are a part of a class trying to get the situation recognized and you did just that. Keep up the good work and I am a huge fan. (Additional examples: Kohelet Prize: Sample CTW letters: Sample Letters to Steven Spielberg) Positive responses were received, one in particular being a personal note from George Clooney. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XXIII: The Power of the Written Word as a Form of Expression, XXVII: The Power of Recognition, Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 7)
- Additionally, students researched, scripted and connected with politicians via cold phone calls and social media, to impress upon them the dire situation in Darfur. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5J8EA7GI6Q; Leah S’s call to Udall; and Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 4, slides 17-19)(See Kohelet Prize: Samples of CTW appeals and actions: Letters to Ban Ki-Moon about arresting al-Bashir, Letters to remove Gration, Elghali Shigefat)
- Students organized in-school informational presentations for fellow Upper School students, and impassioned speeches at parochial institutions and citywide rallies. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slides 18, 35, 37-38; Change the world Overview, Part 2, slides 4-6, 11-12, 15-23,28- 32, 42; Change the world Overview, Part 3, slides 2, 5-10, 13,17-25,Change the world Overview, Part 4, slides 12, 13)
- Student presentations were tailored to specific audiences at public rallies such as Global Days for Darfur, which was amended to suit a Shavuot presentation at BMH-BJ Congregation. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 3) Other presentations were made to youth groups, inter-denominational agencies, politicos and others. (Kohelet prize: Samples of CTW speeches) This provided a lesson for students on how to assess and refocus relevant points in order to engage specific audiences.
- During the Democratic National Convention, students stood proudly alongside numerous politico’s to speak out against injustice. Students were prepared in the classroom for this prestigious event (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3, slides 2-3)
- Enthusiasm and pride in the 8th grade project inspired many Upper School students to volunteer in and out of school, in assisting the CTWIJTC students in their efforts and at events. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world, Overview, Part 1, slide 46) (Notice that many of the letters written were written by students not in 8 th grade and many participants in events were also from other grades) At no time were students coerced to participate in out-of- school events.
- The momentum of the CTWIJTC initiative overflowed into other local schools, who were motivated to initiate campaigns of their own, such as selling lollipops at school. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 4, slide 14)
- The first group of 23 students, wanting to expose the Darfuri genocide to fellow students in their “other lives”, identified and invited local community schools, where they had friends, to join them to publically denounce genocide. This led to future annual Forums, which allowed for student creativity around a central theme, and for which curriculum was provided. Other topics addressed were: Child Rights/The Olympics and China as the Host; Children to Children-Denver to Darfur; …and Justice for All; Global Refugees. (Kohelet prize: Samples of CTW events: Forum and Community Events links on YouTube). Over the duration of the initiative, 78 schools participated in CTWIJTC activism and Forums. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slides 29-34; Change the world Overview, Part 2, slides 35-3; Change the world Overview, Part 4, slides 1-5, 15-16, 20; Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XX: The Power of the Student Voice: The Power of the Forum)
- Diverse school groups came together through visual and performance arts to exchange ideas and their interpretation of the Forum theme. Through sincere presentations, peers gained deeper insight of the theme, and inspired unified and continued anti-genocide activism. e.g. Candle Light Vigil –“For the Children”, where CTWIJTC teen representatives from diverse faiths, cultures and schools reconvened during the Holiday season to make a compelling public statement on behalf of the voiceless children of Darfur. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3 slide 17-25) (Kohelet prize: Samples of CTW events: Darfur Vigil)
- All schools attending the Forums and other CTWIJTC events received a copy of the original Resource Guide for the student driven Tikkun Olam project, to employ the replicable skeleton of this service-learning process for their respective, Tikkun Olam initiatives..(Indianapolis, Indiana, St Louis, Mattole School –N. California, Sweden, Whitwell Middle School -Tennessee, Heritage Middle school – Colorado. (Kohelet Prize: Samples of other schools impacted by CTW, besides those that attended the Forums and other events: Other Schools impacted by CTW)
- “The Kids In Green”, as they were fondly referred to by politicos, were invited by Governor Bill Ritter to attended the official signing of the Divestment-From- Sudan Bill at the State Capitol. There, they were acknowledged for their forthrightness on the issue and were rewarded with the pen used to sign the Bill. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XVII: The Power of Politics, XXVII: The Power of Recognition; Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slides 39-41)
- Students were asked to participate in Areyvut’s “Make a Difference Day”, by reporting about their initiative for sharing on its website. (Kohelet Prize: Sample NGO interactions: Areyvut Feb 2011 Heroes: Areyvut Teen Scene Interview Questionnaire)
- The students examined and analyzed the meaning of Darfur refugee-children’s artwork smuggled out of refugee camp clinics in Sudan by Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, who shared them personally with “Change the world. It just takes cents” TM (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 38; Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XXIV: The Power of Art, Poetry and Song as a Form of Expression). Students, after viewing the art collection, discussed their interpretation of these graphic visual forms of expression,
drawn by children living in such treacherous conditions.
- Inspired by the refugee artwork, Kamal Khamis, a Darfuri refugee art teacher, directed a meaningful classroom art workshop, sharing his cultural background. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slides 39-41)
- Students invited local schools to participate in a collaborative community student art workshop, facilitated at Ditto Art Gallery, understanding the political nuances of Symbols of Peace. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3, slide 1; Kohelet prize: CTW PowerPoints and movies: Symbols of Peace PowerPoint PDF) Students created an unsophisticated “Symbols of Peace” presentation, which served as the basis for interactive reflection of the relevant symbols. This project, facilitated in conjunction with Ditto Gallery during the Democratic National Convention, was open to all youth, especially representatives of the local Darfuri refugee community. Students were thoughtful about the missing element in the lives of children in refugee camps, as they painted panels depicting their interpretation of peace for the upcoming Tents of Hope Rally on the Washington Mall, DC (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3, slide 16; Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XXVI: The Power of Visual Experience)
- CTWIJTC students led student advocacy workshops in Washington, DC, attended by approximately 100 high school students, representing numerous schools (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview Part 3, slides10-12).
- “The Kids in Green” delivered impassioned speeches at various rallies in Denver, around Colorado, outside Colorado (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3, slides 2,5) and in DC (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3, slide 13).
- CTWIJTC students’ “cuteness factor” engaged family and community members, who recognized, endorsed and supported their far-reaching Tikkun Olam efforts, both morally and financially. (Kohelet Prize: Kudos: Kudos from various community members: Dr.Harley MK,LP – Shluchot extract: “Julia…spent the next 15 minutes absolutely dazzling the Congregation with the needs in Darfur and the response to those needs by the Herzl RMHA Change the world. It just takes cents TM program that Sara and her classes have designed and run for the past three years. Even more impressively Julia told of the tangible accomplishments that a bunch of talented and motivated Middle schoolers in the middle of America have brought about in Sudan”…By showcasing the work of our Tikkun Olam class we can teach everyone in Denver and Colorado about needs and deeds – the needs of those in the Sudan and the deeds of those at Herzl RMHA.”)
- Students put out an Appeal for Justice after being contacted by the sister of Elghali Shegifat, a Darfuri journalist unjustly imprisoned in Khartoum (May, 2008) Students immediately answered the call to action, to alert, connect and collaborate with Amnesty International, Jen Marlow of Darfur Diaries and Darfur Alert, calling for the immediate release of the unjustly detained Shegifat. (Kohelet Prize: Samples of CTW appeals and actions: Elghali Shigefat) Two campaigns were launched. a) a daily classroom telephone calling campaign to the White House, demanding the release of Elghali Shigefat and b) an email campaign, raising awareness of Mr. Shigefat’s situation to agencies and activists (Amnesty International, Save Darfur, GI- Net, celebrities, members of legislatures and private individuals), which ran throughout the summer. These efforts greatly assisted in Shigefat’s release in July, 2008, 5 months after his arrest. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview Part 3, slide 12) He was given asylum in USA. The students made cold-calls and challenged political constraints, affecting results and solutions. (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XVIII: The Power of Politics, XXI:The Power of Cooperation and Solidarity, XXII: The Power to Fight Injustice)
- Students connected with the Tel Aviv Foundation, providing funding for 2 daycare centers in Southern Tel Aviv (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XIX:The Power of Connection and Communication)
- After celebrating annual accomplishments, various students returned to CTWIJTC as activists and mentors, as well as continued as agents for change on their college campuses (Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XXIX: The Power of Celebration; Kohelet prize: Kudos: Kudos Dani, Talia and Zoe)
Kohelet Prize: Resource Guide, XXVII: The Power of Recognition: View the complete list of media recognition in Kohelet prize: Kudos; Kohelet prize: Samples of CTW media relations: CTW in the media and CTW on TV and Darfur Forum Keeping it Real https://youtu.be/4BolT48IPDI
Resource Guide, XIX: The Power of Connection and Communication (Networking)
During their multi-year initiative, CTWIJTC students were also fortunate to have the hearts, ears and support of many experts:
- Political Contacts: Students hosted local Political leaders such as Mayor (Governor) Hickenlooper, (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 48), Senator Groff , Speaker of the House Romanoff (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 49) Civic Leaders: Councilwoman Peggy Lehman (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 34), Councilman Joe Miklosi (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 4, slide 10)
- Community Leaders: Paulette Greenberg – Greenberg Center for Learning & Tolerance (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 42) Anita Sanborn – Colorado Episcopal Foundation.
- International Activists: Suad Mansour – Darfur Alert (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 19,31,34,35) Mohammed Yahya- Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 1, slide 45) Rev. Heidi McGinnes – Christian Solidarity International (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 5), Ruth Messinger – American Jewish World Service (Kohelet Prize: Change the world, Overview, Part 2, slide 6) John Prendergast- ENOUGH! (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slides 10-13) Ben Greenberg-Dream for Darfur and Save Darfur (Kohelet Prize: Change the world, Overview, Part 2, slide 16) Mark Hanis –Genocide Intervention Network (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 44), Mohammed Duba – Kenyan BBC Journalist (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 33), Sudanese Ambassador Khalifa (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 34) Adam Sterling – Darfur Now, Michael Ditchfield – 16 th Of May Foundation (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview Part 2, slide 36) Greg Mortenson – Penny Harvest (Kohelet Prize: Change the world, Overview, Part 2, slide 37) Brian Steidle – Hope for Darfur (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 2, slide 43), Annamari Maraanen – Olympian (Kohelet Prize: Change the World Overview, Part 2,
slide 47) Dr. Meggie Navon- Tel Aviv Foundation (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 4, slide 20) , Carl Wilkens – World Outside My Shoes (Kohelet Prize: Change the world, Overview, Part 2, slide 49), Mia Farrow- Dream for Darfur, Ronan Farrow
- Educators: Linda Hooper – Principal Whitwell Middle School / Paperclips (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 3, slide 5), Fran Sterling – Facing History & Ourselves; Jennifer Klein – St Mary’s School; Erin Breeze: Executive Director, Seeking Common Ground
Teacher reflection: The lesson learned from the networking process was how to develop mutually beneficial relationships e.g. students provided CTWIJTC sweat suits as soccer gear for an I-Act initiative in refugee camps. In turn I-Act, aware of the student’s ability to present and imbue other teen activists, facilitated an invitation for CTWIJTC students to run the leadership workshop in Washington DC. (Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview Part 3, slides 10-15) As a result of the students’ assertive and productive advocacy, the CTWIJTC movement also gained prominence throughout educational circles and professional development platforms. This led to the program’s being showcased and repeated at various conferences: CAJE, NYLC, Facing History & Ourselves, The Institute for Sustainable Peace and JBHA (Barrack) Human Rights Conference. Attendees of every CTWIJTC breakout session received, gratis, an original digitalized resource guide for use in their respective classrooms and activist groups.
- The students struggled with an abundance of enthusiasm and ideas that were not necessarily practical, but they never heard their mentor utter the word “No”. In the face of failure, students were challenged to pursue other options.
- Student reflection: “When we set out on this project we were inspired to help others in the world. When our original ideas failed we found another way to help them. This kept the fire burning under us and kept us motivated.
- Teacher reflection: Aware of the student’s frustrations, I was tempted to step in but needed to remind myself that it was their project which needed guidance rather than spoon-fed solutions. Students needed to construct their own reality, knowledge and truths, thereby determining their initiative’s direction/s. I needed to remind myself that my role in this Tikkun Olam initiative was to be in charge of taking orders!
- Allocation of funds: Wishing to honor the mission statement created by the students to rebuild a the D’Kaire school in Korma, Darfur it was an arduous classroom discussion process to reach a consensus on a) keeping the funds in the US until the end of the genocide, b) sending it to Darfur via local Darfuris or c) finding an alternate avenue to meet the goal of providing education in a secure haven. At that time Darfuri refugees were entering Israel. An option presented itself through the Tel Aviv Foundation (TAF) to provide a daycare center in Southern Tel Aviv for Darfuri refugee toddlers stranded at the border between Israel and Egypt. The students unanimously rallied behind the tangible TAF option, as they hoped to visit the daycare as a group during their future 10th grade trip to Israel. The CTWIJTC process molded them into a team with no designated leader. This permitted them to respectfully and humbly donate the money for the daycare center (soon to be TWO daycare centers) in the name of the Denver CTWIJTC movement, rather than seek individual recognition.(Kohelet Prize: Change the world Overview, Part 4, slides 21-23).“The person who gives without knowing to whom she/she gives. The recipient does not know from whom he/she receives.” Rambam. The ultimate purpose is to minimize embarrassment. (YouTube: Pre-K children thank CTWIJTC for their enrichment corner; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLGcAHF8Uvg)
- The lack of block scheduling in the school required creative thinking in order to service the students’ passion for their Tikkun Olam initiative. Many of the students volunteered out of school hours in order to achieve their goals. Students were always accompanied by their mentors e.g. distributing and providing information at summer pool gatherings, selling “free lemonade” with Darfur information written on cups, selling lollipops at school, Sunday evening art workshop at Ditto Gallery, providing after school homework help at the African Community Center, speaking out at synagogues and churches in evenings and Shabbat, attending and advocating at Sunday rallies.
- Flexibility in use of the original Resource Guide was both a strength and a weakness, as intuition guided the process. Generation 1 students encountered and overcame inevitable challenges ensuing groups did not have to address e.g. write a proposal to school administration and the mechanics of organizing the Forum. This “paving the way” allowed the other groups to explore other situations and actions e.g. Generation 2 travelled nationally to imbue others to join their cause.
Teacher reflection: Closing Summation:
At the beginning of each year, a group of immature, naïve students entered my Tikkun Olam class, eager to repair the world but insecure as to who they were and the formula for attaining the objective. Over the course of the process, which tailored itself to the individual strengths and interests of each student, they grew individually and as group. They defined themselves, their talent, their role and their team. Each student’s confidence grew, as they met new challenges and diversified their thinking and skills. They stood taller, they projected their voices, they defended their opinions, they reflected on and challenged each other’s ideas and suggested alternatives. They demonstrated strong character traits as they addressed each other and their chosen cause. As the program extended into the community, students applied themselves with sincere commitment and thoughtful responsibility, aware that they could produce even a small meaningful change with no reward other than the satisfaction of having made a difference.
The original curriculum blueprint, which was freely shared to motivate educators, evolved in parallel with the students’ development and understanding of Tikkun Olam, their sense of curiosity and exploration. As they examined and researched their selected Areyvut, they became more committed and persevered towards repairing a broken situation. Respectfully using their voice and through collaborative, positive action, students demonstrated their ability to lead by example with far-reaching impact, to be the voice of those silenced by acts of terror. Their confident and visible efforts in public speaking, teaching, communication, advocacy, leadership, and use of philanthropic opportunities motivated our community to take note of the student voice, support them, and become partners. It is important to note that fundraising, although successful, was never a primary focus of the efforts of the CTWIJTC students.
One of the benefits of student-driven learning is the discovery, ownership and excitement of their project’s intricacies and the resourceful realization of the tools available to manipulate each detail. These students developed emotionally and socially through the process of guided critical thinking and demonstrated heightened enthusiasm of their learning experience. They came to class with a smile on their face, eager to define and tackle their next phase.
I have observed former 8th graders become socially responsible, productive community members. Through connections with the media, educational institutions, religious groups, political forums and social events, CTWIJTC Middle School students influenced the community with their passionate message for tolerance and co-existence, the need to end genocide and to offer a solution to providing a safe haven and an education for the victims, refugee children. With its lasting impact, CTWIJTC has been a springboard for my students, these lifelong learners, to run with the torch and pass it on. Through education, sound values and understanding of the Tikkun Olam process, students are able to replicate the framework for any cause and unite in facing the world professionally, socially and culturally to resolve issues, ultimately creating a more respectful and humane society. (Kohelet prize: Kudos: Kudos Dani Talia Zoe; Kudos from various community members)
Despite the recent spotlight on refugee rights and the well-being of global refugees, there are still individuals who do not acknowledge that refugees are in need of basic protection and safe refuge. There is still much work to be done!
Im lo achshav, ei-matai! (If not now, when?)
Sara Caine Kornfeld has been an educator for 35 years. She teaches secular, Judaic and Hebrew language subjects to students of all ages. She taught in Philadelphia at Solomon Schechter Day School, supplementary synagogue schools and in public schools. She also taught at Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University and Universita Ammamit in Israel. Sara Caine Kornfeld initiated the formal Hebrew program for kindergarten at Herzl/RMHA Lower School in Denver, Colorado and taught Social Studies and Service Learning classes at Herzl/RMHA Upper School. She received her Bachelors degree in International Relations, Masters degree in TESOL and an advanced degree in Educational Linguistics, all from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a certified (National Youth Leadership Council) service-learning educator.