Guest post by Angela Abend
Oceanside, N.Y.'s PROJECT EXTRA 6th graders from all six elementary schools came together to raise awareness and funds for the “Out On a Limb” Foundation in this year’s charity event, “I Am Peace.” The students were inspired by the book “I Am Peace”, written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.
This beautiful story not only focuses on the importance of mindfulness in an often chaotic world but also challenges children to become instruments of peace in order to create change. The children in Oceanside’s PROJECT EXTRA program proudly accepted this challenge and successfully created their own “I Am Peace” movement!
The mission of their chosen charity, “Out on a Limb,” is to improve the lives of children with limb loss both domestically and internationally, by strengthening the amputee community, and providing pediatric prosthetic care for all. Many PROJECT EXTRA classes were given the opportunity to speak with its founder, Oceanside’s own, Robert Schulman, and learned even more about the vision of “Out On A Limb.”
As they say, it all begins with a story. The line from “I Am Peace” that resonated with the students and me was “I can share kindness with others--I make a difference,” and make a difference they did! Connections were made beyond the four walls of their PROJECT EXTRA classroom because that is where true, authentic learning is often found. They knew with the addition of 3D technology in their Makerspace, they would have the responsibility of making not only gadgets and gizmos and things that go bing, but they would be responsible for making something far greater... a difference. They then met Robert Schulman who shared his story as one who selfishly gives of his time and expertise to help those with limb loss and limb difference - often with the use of 3D technology. The stars had now aligned and Oceanside’s “I Am Peace” project was born.
Since then, students filmed a reading of Verde’s “I Am Peace” and held fundraisers that ranged from a kids’ yoga class at a local yoga studio to a “Paint and Pizza for a Cause” night where beautiful peace signs were created under the tutelage of local artist, Mr. Rawcliffe. They shared their research and displayed many of their projects including their “Dots of Love” plaque heading to the Kincaid School in Houston where the terrible effects of Hurricane Harvey were unfortunately felt. According to 6th graders Jenna and Sarah, “As students of Oceanside, we can empathize with them because we know what they went through.”
One of the most impressive elements of the “I Am Peace” celebration was the connections the students made to their close and extended community. A yoga teacher, Mrs. Hartofelis, and a craftsman, Mr. Grosso, were both recognized for their assistance in the “I Am Peace” project. Josh Stevens, co-creator of Bloxels, and world-famous author and illustrator Peter Reynolds both sent pre-recorded congratulatory messages to the PROJECT EXTRA students recognizing them for their hard work and passion for peace.
“I Am Peace” author Susan Verde and “Out On A Limb” founder Robert Schulman were both in attendance, making this event a truly authentic experience for all. Local councilman Anthony D’Esposito presented both Ms. Verde and Mr. Schulman with citations honoring them for their positive influence on the children of Oceanside. But perhaps the most adored guest was Logan, a 2nd grader from Brooklyn and a client of Mr. Schulman.
Logan was born with tibial Hemimelia/bilateral lower extremity longitudinal deficiency. He has had two amputations and now walks with the use of prosthetics. The PROJECT EXTRA students designed and 3D-printed casings (or covers) for his prosthetics and decorated them with 3D designs of things he likes and enjoys, especially Super Mario! These covers were created by scanning the lower leg of one of the PROJECT EXTRA students and then those scans were sent to the 3D printer. The casings now take the shape of actual legs when Logan wears them and, of course, “shows them off.” Logan truly captured the hearts of all who met him during this project and during the day of the “I Am Peace” presentation. He chatted with guests, answered questions, and enjoyed spending time with the PROJECT EXTRA students. According to 6th grader Noah, “He is a really awesome kid and we all feel we have a new younger brother in Logan.”
“Our Project Extra students have taken ownership of their learning, connected with others both locally and globally and have become empowered global citizens who realize that their actions can truly make a difference in this world. Isn’t that what we want of education?” said Mitch Bickman, Director of Social Studies, K-12, Oceanside School District. “‘I Am Peace’ takes schooling beyond the four walls of the classroom to foster the next generation of problem-solvers.”
Through generous contributions and grants from NEFCU and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Foundation, each student was given an “Out on the Limb” t-shirt and a copy of “I Am Peace” to be autographed by Susan Verde who stayed for a book signing. The book signing did not occur until after the PROJECT EXTRA Class of 2018 gave their generous donation of $4,748 to the “Out On A Limb” Foundation and as of this writing, the total is approaching the $5,000 mark! It is true when you give students the opportunity to create change, they do. When their ideas blossom into realities, they tend to far exceed your expectations. It is not necessarily the amount on the “big check,” but the amount of love and dedication in their “big hearts.” Oceanside PROJECT EXTRA Class of 2018... you certainly outdid yourselves!
Check out these videos from Oceanside PROJECT EXTRA’S “I Am Peace’ Project:
“I Am Peace” Peace Train Slide Show: //vimeo.com/259509413
Student Book Reading: //youtu.be/mzuuyZjXLqg
“I Am Peace” Welcome Video: //animoto.com/play/zVWQJ8NmbGjdfZvK8bH3PA
Greetings From Peter Reynolds: //drive.google.com/file/d/1mGPy2NnwGqfwAsmtctGvuTXLAFAub23f/view?usp=sharing
Greetings and a Gift From Josh Stevens: //drive.google.com/file/d/1pgboMmRrjiAe7vX2QHszKFd33LZ3jJ84/view?usp=sharing
Student Logan Video: //animoto.com/play/KOw3X5NMPy28WQfeLqG3tA
Angela Abend is a veteran teacher in the Oceanside School District where she works as the gifted/enrichment specialist.
Photos courtesy of Angela Abend
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.