Challenger elementary students help typhoon victims
December 5, 2013
By Neil Pierson
After Kathy Stimpson’s fourth-grade students at Challenger Elementary School read a non-fiction story last month, they spent some time in reflection.
Then they put their thoughts into words and actions.
“We were reading about how Italians were emigrating to America, and we saw a picture of one of the reasons why,” student Sean Brainard said. “And it was because some of the Italians, all their homes were destroyed by an earthquake. That reminded us of the Philippines and what’s going on in the world right now.”
On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, an island nation of 96 million people in southeast Asia. High winds and floods destroyed many coastal cities, and the storm has killed an estimated 5,200 to date, making it the deadliest natural disaster in the nation’s history.
Stimpson said her class immediately picked up on a “text-to-world connection” that teachers strive for. The students began raising their hands and asking questions: What happens to people who lose their homes? Will any Filipinos emigrate to the United States?
Another concurrent lesson spawned deeper thoughts among the class. They’d read an article about Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who defied a Taliban restriction on girls attending school.
Yousafzai was shot for her efforts, and though she made a full recovery, now lives in England and faces an ongoing threat of further retaliation.
“We were talking about how kids can help change the world, too, and all that just sort of snowballed,” Stimpson said. “They brought up the idea of having some kind of a fundraiser to help the people in the Philippines.”
Brainard said he and his fellow classmates learned children – not just adults – can create big changes in the world.
“It really impacted me, because I can barely believe there’s people who don’t let girls go to school,” he said.
Fundraising details came together quickly, led by Brainard and Chris Johnson, the class’s student council representatives. The class wanted to donate as much money as possible to the cause, but it also wanted to do it as quickly as possible. The fundraising timeline was set for one week, finishing up Nov. 27.
An aquarium was placed in the school’s main office, and it quickly filled up with dollar bills and loose change. More than $500 came from Stimpson’s class alone, and the final school-wide tally amounted to $1,391.58.
The school plans to give a check for that amount to World Vision, a Federal Way-based non-profit organization that tackles humanitarian issues around the globe.
“I thought this was a really powerful thing my kids came up with that shows kindness,” Stimpson said, noting the Issaquah School District’s recent focus on kindness in classrooms.
Stimpson’s class took the lead in spreading word to other Challenger students and parents. They volunteered time during recess to make promotional posters. Johnson and Brainard announced the fundraiser over the school’s intercom, and wrote an informational blurb that went to subscribers of the school’s electronic newsletter.
Johnson said Challenger student leaders often come up with philanthropic projects. This month, they’ll be collecting food and clothing to send to Africa.
“The typhoon was really big – big and powerful – so it was just a no-brainer that we had to do it,” Johnson said.