Half a world away, young students living in war-torn and poverty-stricken locations—such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan–make their best efforts each day to gain an education in makeshift schoolrooms, while working with few educational supplies.
At the same time, students at Kyrene Middle School in So. Tempe attend classes in clean, modern facilities and are able to concentrate on learning.
Though the Tempe-based students have fewer physical challenges to education, as their school seeks to be accredited as an International Baccalaureate program, they also must participate in a learning activity that implements critical thinking and collaborative skills, so KMS teachers adopted a national charity known as “Pennies for Peace.” Each month, KMS has an IB Projects Day in which students participate in the service learning activity.
“Through these opportunities students learn to become philanthropists and activists, key attributes that make up an IB learner,” explained Kathie Cigich, the KMS IB coordinator, who along with Janis Bardon, IB capstone teacher, works with staff and students to identify projects that are aligned to this mission.
“Specifically, Pennies for Peace is a program that addresses these goals by providing students with the opportunity to become knowledgeable about the countries affected by their local community’s generosity,” said Cigich.
This semester, through April 25, approximately 600 seventh and eighth-grade KMS students are gathering Pennies for Peace as a semester-long service learning activity along with studying the cultures of Central Asia.
Students also learn to be empathetic, have compassion and respect for those who are less fortunate, and become open-minded, by appreciating the culture of the foreign countries.
The lessons in the curriculum cover themes such as the power of education, the effects of extreme poverty, culture, geography, politics, humanitarian efforts and global citizen responsibilities.
“Through Pennies for Peace, our students also will gain an understanding of how important education is around the world. They will become aware of the desperate need for school buildings and resources in war-torn countries.
“Overall, they will come to see how mere pennies will support their global peers as they pursue their education,” said Deb Rosenblum, a seventh and eighth-grade language and literature teacher at KMS.
Students use their collections of pennies to help provide much needed supplies, textbooks, and possibly teacher salaries for schools in the Central Asia region, where an education provides the opportunity to break the cycle of extreme poverty, violence and war.
Although a penny has a nominal currency value in the United State, collecting the coins here can yield big changes in Central Asia—in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan just a few pennies can buy a pencil and open the door to literacy.
Pennies for Peace first started with a group of elementary school students in Wisconsin who wanted to help educators in Central Asia, so they gathered pennies to donate for children who might be overlooked.
“Pennies for Peace is a great way to help students who aren’t as fortunate as students in America. We will be able to pay teacher salaries, buy school supplies, and build schools in developing nations,” said Ava Bickler, a seventh-grade student.
KMS partnered with Central Asia Institute (CAI) in implementing the Pennies for Peace service learning activity. It is their mission to help students in the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
The money raised is intended to bring hope and possibilities to many students in these countries by providing much needed resources. CAI created the curriculum for this learning opportunity.