It’s not easy solving the world’s problems.
More than 75 Cataldo School seventh- and eighth-graders learned that last week while spending a day tackling global issues.
Standing in their socks on a plastic 35-by-70-foot map of the world, the students represented sections of the globe, from China to North Africa. The goal was to increase their energy and food supplies, while finding solutions for their country’s most pressing problems.
Japan was having a hectic day. No sooner had they provided adequate housing to their Korean population than they were slapped with a citation for inefficient use of energy.
Then came yet another violation, this time for ignoring heart disease invading their country due to increased exposure to fatty Western food.
Eighth-grader Michael Kohler and seventh-grader Marinda Small, two Japanese officials for the day, were feeling the heat.
“I give up!” yelped Small as she scrambled to buy energy units from neighboring countries.
The day-long workshop was presented to the Cataldo students by World Game International, a nonprofit organization which gives presentations for schools and corporations around the country.
“Students see a lot on the news of countries and wars, but they don’t get a real global perspective,” said Chuck Dingee, Northwest workshop coordinator. “This lets them see what happens when we shrink the globe down to the size of this room.”
Over lunch, the pint-sized North American officials contemplated their morning’s work.
They’d faced a literacy crisis: kids were dropping out of school, adults couldn’t get a job because they were illiterate.
“We opened more schools and made a career program where people could find out what they want to be,” explained eighth-grader Andy LeFriec.
The group also implemented an internship program to give kids practical experience and hired patrol officers to monitor school truancy.
Their program cost them $13 billion, but it was well worth it. They solved their literacy dilemma.
Along with fellow North Americans and eighth-graders Mike Busto, Tom Feulner and Adam Benham, LeFriec also tackled a waste problem in Tijuana, Mexico, spending billions to send crews in to clean up and convert all city residents to sewers.
And it was only noon.
Students learn through volunteerism
Many of the Lewis and Clark students in John Hagney’s Practicum in Community Involvement class didn’t think they could make a difference.
On Friday, the group discovered they could - and had.
Over the course of the semester, Hagney’s students each spent at least 48 hours of their time in the community, volunteering as everything from tutors to peer educators.
Some filed paperwork and cleaned. Others spent their time playing with sick children.
“Whatever their experience, some of these students leave this class really feeling they can make a difference,” Hagney said.
The seniors spent their last day in the class Friday discussing the highlights and struggles.
“I expected to feel really good about helping people,” said Brook Stokke, who worked at Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and the Spokane Food Bank. “The work I did was a lot harder than I thought. I’d go home really tired.”
Yonnas Tesfai spent his hours playing soccer with kids at the East Central Community Center, where he hung out as a youngster.
Like many of his classmates, Tesfai said he planned to continue his work at the center, even after he was no longer receiving credit for it.
Ayana Gant, who volunteered at a women’s shelter, shared what she learned working with homeless women.
“There’s a thin line between us and them,” she said. “It’s just that we have a place to stay and they don’t.”
The purpose of the civics class, started by Hagney three years ago, is to give students hands-on experience with the subjects they read about in class - including poverty, illiteracy and race relations.
“I wanted them to be able to see that many problems we experience nationally have local manifestations,” he said. “We don’t have to look much farther than our own backyard.”
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