Have you ever thought about getting students actively involved to promote literacy in the community and around the world? This past school year I partnered with the global nonprofit organization Give More HUGS in a year long Project-Based Service Learning (PBSL) initiative. My partnership with Give More HUGS helped my students to become advocates for quality education, civic engagement, creativity, collaboration, and social change. Students participated in multiple projects from twitter chats, book drives, and research projects throughout the school year with this amazing organization and its awesome team to promote literacy.
Give More HUGS is a 501(c)3 non profit organization with a mission to provide students in need with school supplies, books with inspirational messages, art supplies, extracurricular activity scholarships, mentorships, and encouragement to inspire a lifelong love for learning, reading, and creativity.
Twitter Book Chats
My students read at least one outside reading book each marking period. Each quarter I offered one book title for students to read in a book club setting, which meets on Twitter after school hours to discuss the book. Moved by Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for equality education among all people and the collaboration with Give More HUGS, I selected Malala’s autobiography for the first Twitter book chat of the school year because of Malala’s positive impact on the world and the idea that anyone can make a difference to help make the world a better place. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick offers insight into Malala’s strength and courage to promote equality education for young women in Pakistan and around the world. The Twitter book chats helped engage students in authentic discussions about the book and share their responses, connections, and questions.
Students participated in four Twitter Book Chats to address the complex issues raised in each book. Because Give More HUGS strives to promote equality education, I invited the HUGS Ambassadors and Give More HUGS members in the Twitter Book Chats because of the shared interests and goals of equality education for all. This experience gave students an opportunity to use social media to participate in a 21st century book club and social movement to make this world a better place.
Genius Hour “Shark Tank” Project Pitches
Every Friday in my classroom is Genius Hour. Genius Hour in the classroom was inspired by Google’s 20% time, where employees at Google get is 20% of their time to work on a special project. Once a week students have one class period to explore, learn, create, discover, and research a topic that interests them. The only conditions are that students choose a topic that is researchable and will “have a positive impact on the community,” no matter how big or small it may be. At the end of each semester, students share what they have learned in a presentation of their choice and how their work has made an impact.
Once students selected their Genius Hour project, I required students to design an elevator pitch to explain their passion and project interests. Students took two weeks to craft their pitches. I invited Give More HUGS founder and director, Chris McGilvery and a few of the HUGS Ambassadors into my classroom for students to present their Genius Hour elevator pitches in a “Shark Tank” style setting. Eight lucky projects were selected as “Brilliant Ideas” or “Social Change Makers” by the HUGS representatives. The eight “winners” were highlighted on the Give More HUGS blog and offered a wider audience to promote their social action Genius Projects. You can Read more about this collaboration on the Give More HUGS blog.
Impressed by many of the projects students created, Chris encouraged students to participate in Give More HUGS as Ambassadors. Two students pursued that role and are official Ambassadors for GMH planning projects and raising awareness. One student in particular combined her Genius Hour project with GMH and organized a book drive throughout the school. She and a friend collected nearly 1,000 books during the month of May. Each book will be inscribed with a personal message and sent to schools and organizations that lack resources. In addition to the book drive, the students created campaign called S.P.A.R.K. (Spread Passion and Reading Knowledge)and designed tee shirts to raise awareness and money for schools in need. In designing the project my student stated, “We chose this project because we believe that books are a key learning tool and also to spread our love of learning. We both value our education and the opportunities we have. We want to spread our passion for reading and learning to others. We decided the best way to “ignite their spark” was to motivate them by giving them books.”