Altona students build passion for education equality through service learning

Seventh grade students at Altona Middle School raised over $4,000 for the Malala Foundation as part of their 7th grade Language Arts Class. What began as a classroom reading and study of the book, “I am Malala” culminated in a fundraising gala where students presented speeches of advocacy for educational equity, musical pieces, artwork and handmade crafts. Members of the community were invited to attend the event enjoy the presentations and the money raised from donations and purchased goods went to the Malala Foundation. The Foundation directs money to support access to education.

To meet curriculum standards, every student wrote an op-ed piece on the themes studied in “I am Malala.” The themes covered Voice, Family, Education and Social Justice. Students specifically had to address the question, “Why should every child have a right to an education?” Students were invited to participate in the Malala Gala and choose from a menu of options of how they could contribute to the evening. While the Malala Gala did not require student participation, over 85 percent of students attended the gala, along with many family and community members.

According to Altona Language Arts teacher, Liz Wolford, the most important aspect of this curriculum series was to expand students’ view of the world beyond the classroom. Ms. Wolford said, “What we are really focusing on is creating a global citizen. The whole message here was this global idea of thinking outside of the box and thinking outside of self.” She went on to say that many students explored how to partner with a company or organization to pursue their projects and share their messaging. Silver Creek students visited the seventh graders and gave them tips on how to successfully deliver LEAD Talks (Ted Talk inspired speeches on leadership topics).

Altona students felt they were able to share their voice through participation at the Malala Gala. Seventh grade student, Allie Hartman, composed an original piece of music on the piano titled, “Her Name is Malala.” Allie wanted to share her messaging through music saying, “I think a lot of times when you speak or write, you can not always describe emotions through words and I felt like by writing a piece through music, it allowed people to feel emotions in a different way.” Allie found that participating in the Malala Gala has increased her confidence. In the past, she has struggled with sharing her work with others. Debuting her original piece of music at the Malala Gala has encouraged her to play publicly in other settings.

Another seventh grader, Rajarshi Bose, participated in the gala by delivering a speech titled “Education for Change.” Rajarshi chose to deliver a speech because he liked that it could spread an idea very quickly. This curriculum has taught Rajarshi to appreciate more about his life and the education he is able to receive. He now considers educational equity a form of social justice more. Rajarshi said, “My favorite aspect of the curriculum was seeing how many people support this cause and how people want to do something to support Malala’s vision of this world, where we can make it better for everyone.”

Ms. Wolford noted how proud the teachers and staff were of the 300 students who were engaged and excited to participate in the curriculum. This educational opportunity was a success because of the support from fellow Language Arts teachers Garett Paukstis and Brendan Butler, Special Education teacher Cleveland Smith, and Altona Technology Innovators Jessica Campbell, Rod Anadon and Tina Fredo. This team of teachers began preparing for this project in October. The entire school was appreciative of the students hard work and diligence in creating and displaying original, self driven projects to the community.