Caring and Compassion

Christine Kolstoe
iEARN Teacher
United States

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Collaboration story:

The story starts with collaboration in our school: Mrs Magill's 4th graders organized the food drive for the school: they made posters to advertise the drive and made morning announcements in November. Each day students brought cans and dry food. The 4th graders counted the boxes and weighed the food as part of their math. The food was donated to a local food bank.

Mr VandeGriend‘s 5th graders organized the toy drive: they did morning announcements and collected the toys to be given to sick children at a local hospital

We have a Character Education Program at our school and each month we illustrate a different Character Trait. November and December are short months, so we did them together with the theme of Compassion. We read stories and discuss what it means. The main captions are a summary of all the items that came up during our discussions. Then the students were asked to illustrate the ideas that they came up with. The water colors from Mr Kerani's first graders are actually a work of buddy classrooms: Mrs Magill's fourth grade and M. Kerani's first grade class.

Other students in our school were invited to do the project too. The students did a great job illustrating the concepts.

Because of our participation in the learning circle, we chose to share this theme as our project because it reflected the work we were doing at school.

Countries we connected with:

Slonim, Belarus, and Amman, Jordan. Also schools in NY and Nebraska.

Curriculum Links:

Character education, Library, geography, reading, writing, math (the 4th graders kept track of how many pounds of food we collected for the food bank, and made posters and graphs).

What strategies, tips, or suggestions would you recommend to another educator interested in involving their students in the same project?

Start with a book to have a story to discuss and start discussion. The lesson on caring for K-3was based on this book. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud and David Messing. The librarian developped a list of books for teachers to choose from in the upper grades. Our school is already doing a lot with character education, we have a theme every month. We wanted to keep it concrete and understandable for the younger students, hence the oral discussion followed by drawings. Also we choose projects that are already part of what we are going to do. The learning circle added a great international dimension to our work.

The challenge was to work with young student, so it was a two step process: first discussion and definitions of what compassion means, then the illustrations that show that the students understand the concepts. Each teacher had the latitude to adapt the lesson and discussion to their grade level.

Related Materials:

The posters are the brainchild of our counselor Nancy Grant. The food drive was sponsored by Mrs Magill, a fourth grade teacher

The bulletin board was created by our 5th grade teacher Steve VandeGriend.

Mr Kerani and Mrs Kolstoe proposed the idea of a creating a book/presentation about caring and compassion for the learning circle since it was a great theme to explore this time of year. We were curious what other schools and countries were doing. The idea was extremely well received in our learning circle, and we had a good exchange of students discussions and student work from the participants in our learning circle.

The work presented to iEARN is the work done in the library and with 1st graders and 4th graders. Most of the artwork of the book was watercolors done by Mr Kerani's first graders with help from their 4th grade buddy class and a few entries from 5th grade. The pictures were done on 8x11 paper, scanned and slightly reduced to fit on a page with the words. Some classes had the words and page ready before they asked the students to draw.

Some students drew and some used the computer. Mrs Fosco's students did the project using computer since Mrs Fosco is their computer teacher. She was also very enthusiastic about the project and had all her 5th graders do it. She featured their work on her school website.

Knowledge: What content areas did your students understand better by participating in the project? The students learned that they could do something concrete to show compassion personally and for their community. The students were really proud of their work, they are eager to show they understand the concepts of caring and compassion. It was interesting to find out how other countries and other school show care and compassion.

Many students participated from the school and we created a second book for our school.

Skills: What skills did your students gain by participating in the project? For example, computer skills, audio/video skills, communication skills, collaboration skills, etc. Students talked in groups about what compassion looked like, and we listed all the things they thought about. This occurred all throughout the school at all levels, and also across levels in buddy classrooms. There was collaboration, discussions, organizing the ideas about what compassion means, some writing and some art skills although our school does not have an art teacher. We feel that drawing is particularly important in the younger grades as a mean of expression. This was also linked to concrete actions like the food drive and the toy drive. The learning circle provided a platform to see how schools respond to needs in their communities and as a way to learn about life in different countries. This really makes geography come alive, as we identify and show on a globe where the other schools are from. It is also very powerful to show that we have many of the same concerns and that we can do something concrete to make it a better world.


What actions did your students take to make a meaningful difference in the world as part of their involvement in the project?

We participated in the food drive one week in November

We participated in a toy drive one week in December.

In addition 5th graders and 1st graders made a quilt and donated a bear to a hospital as a classroom buddy project.

Due to the young age of the participants, their reflections were made orally: they are really proud of their artwork and their contributions. They are showing a much better understanding of what it means to have compassion and can give concrete examples.

The Lynnwood Elementary community donated 246 gifts for children in hospitals through the Starlight Foundation.

Related Links:

iEARN Learning Circles

Christine Kolstoe and Kelly Kerani are iEARN Teachers from Lynnwood Elementary, Lynnwood, WA, USA