The pandemic has drastically changed the way that school is conducted across the United States, but that is not stopping teachers from incorporating service-learning into their virtual classrooms. Ben Butters at Matoska International IB World School in MN was determined to follow through with their annual Walk for Water, even if it meant doing so virtually from their own homes and neighborhoods. Ben came up with creative ways to keep his students engaged and not only did they reach their $4,500 fundraising goal, but they nearly doubled it, raising almost $8,000! We recently interviewed him to see how he has been able to engage and motivate his students to take action during this difficult time.
1. Your school has participated in H2O for Life for many years. What keeps you coming back?
The reasons for partnering with H2O for Life are quite numerous and go way beyond raising funds for a school in a developing country.
• Connecting kids between real life and what they are learning at school
• Gaining a global perspective
• Creating a community of people who care about others
• Establishing traditions in our community
• Providing purpose and direction for students to see service in action.
The Water Walk we do every other year is something our kids look forward to all year long. It brings our school community closer together.
2. You have created a great system for engaging your Matoska students. Can you tell us about your plan?
Each fall I ask 5th-grade students who are interested in becoming “Water Warriors” to write a one page paper on why they want to be Water Warriors. In my first year, I had about 8 students. It has grown over the years to a size of 24 students. We meet once every other week for half the school year and then the second half the year we meet every week. Our meetings are typically 30 minutes. We establish agreements, the students plan events, they strategize how we can engage all of the students, think of ways on how we can educate students about the water crisis, we develop a plan for the year, and then take action on how we are going to complete the plan.
5th grade Water Warriors go into classrooms and share with students, they have created signs to put around the school, spoken at events, provided leadership for all students to strive to be Water Warriors. Bottom line, empowering students to be leaders and be people of action.
3. This year due to Covid-19, H2O for Life has watched many schools that typically complete their projects in the spring cancel their campaigns. What kept you going?
Whenever we have done a project there are always obstacles to overcome, obviously this one was quite big. The bigger the obstacle to overcome the greater the reward will be. When faced with a challenge, I want my students to rise up, not give up. My students deserve my best all the time. And if we fail or it becomes apparent that it won’t work, well then I can look in the mirror and know I gave them my best.
4. How did you pull it off in this time of distance learning?
I kept meeting in google hangouts with my 5th grade Water Warriors and I asked a couple questions of the team. Do you want to try? They all said yes. Then the next question was quite simple, how? We brainstormed for a while and came up with a plan.
5. What was your action plan?
The plan was for me, as the PE teacher, to slowly introduce our plan each week of distance learning. Then each 5th grade Water Warrior was assigned a class and they went to their google hangout meeting and shared the plan and answered questions. Water warriors used a slideshow to direct their conversations with classes, it was quite simple:
1. Register: setting up an online fundraising account is quite simple
2. Plans: Families plan a water walk around their house, neighborhood…
3. Share: send an email to family and friends. Also, send me a 10-second clip of them doing the water walk.
Matoska International IB World School raised nearly $8,000 for Nyaka School in Uganda! Watch the highlight video of students in action!
Ben, and his family walking for water