This article was published on AMLE.org on February 1, 2017 by Suzie Melton
In 2012, I incorporated the Lead2Feed Student Leadership program into my classes because of its focus on leadership and service learning. In 2016, I decided to use Lead2Feed as the curriculum during our enrichment time to help encourage students’ active engagement in a program that helps them see beyond their own lives and learn to make a difference in the lives of others.
In education, success is often measured by the results from standardized tests. However, the focus of Lead2Feed enables students to understand that success can also be measured by actions, determination, and dedication to a goal. Students develop their voices and begin to realize that they can make a difference, but they cannot do it alone.
Suzie Melton’s Lead2Feed student team members raised awareness for the global water crisis and won second place in the Lead2Feed Leadership Challenge. For their efforts, $10,000 was donated to WATERisLIFE, their 501c3 non-profit partner. Their school received $5,000 in technology products.
The lessons taught in the Lead2Feed curriculum align perfectly with 21st century skills and meet a variety of other educational competencies. Most important, students learn that leadership involves people working together, which is something we will need from our future leaders!
Lead2Feed supports middle level education through leadership lessons that require students to work together in a team, research problems facing the world today, deepen their understanding of these problems, and collaborate to find solutions.
As a result of participating in these learning experiences, my students developed an awareness about the water problems confronted by many people throughout the world. They were shocked by many of the statistics that they learned. The statistic that was most startling to them is that one in five children will not survive past the age of five due to insufficient clean water. Students wanted to collect money to help purchase individual water filters called “Life Straws.”
However, it was too late in the school year to begin collecting money to purchase the water filters. This minor setback did not deter students’ desires to continue the project; rather, students learned that sometimes we have to persevere, generate new ideas, and create a new plan of action.
Students from Jay M. Robinson Middle School walked two miles with gallons filled with dirty water to educate others about the water issues.
The students decided to raise awareness by carrying gallon jugs containing dirty water around school. They also walked two miles with the jugs to simulate the experience of walking long distances to retrieve clean water. The realization that the water they were carrying was neither healthy nor drinkable helped them develop a deeper understanding of the need for positive changes in the world.
The students entered the Lead2Feed Leadership Challenge and earned a $10,000 donated award to WATERisLIFE, an organization that works to provide access to clean water and educational programs. The students’ efforts provided bucket water filters for every home in a village in northern Ghana. The filters that were installed will continue to provide clean water for 10 years, showing students that sometimes small efforts have a large impact.
Participating in the Lead2Feed program helped students develop in many ways. They developed self- and collective-efficacy by working as both leaders and team members. Students also developed advocacy skills by actively supporting a cause in which they believed as well as promoting positive change in our world.
After reflecting on their experiences, almost all of the students commented on how they take too many things for granted—education, food, water, lifestyles, and possessions. They also took pride in their accomplishment, recognized the effects of their collaboration, and felt empowered knowing they could continue to be catalysts of change in future endeavors.
Service learning is an effective teaching and learning strategy because it provides students with opportunities to increase their awareness of the people and problems that exist within their communities as well as throughout the world. Service learning also provides students with opportunities to develop as problem-solvers, collaborators, and leaders.
Some students often think that money is the only solution to a problem. While money can help immensely, students need to understand that actions also matter. One small deed may have a large impact on either one person or an entire community.
I hope that sharing my students’ experiences will inspire others to participate in Lead2Feed. More information on the program’s curriculum can be found here.