A powerful journey – From central idea to action

Camilla Gaff, Year 1 teacher, Mentone Girls’ Grammar School

Camilla Gaff, Year 1 teacher, Mentone Girls’ Grammar School, Australia

This article illustrates how a year 1 teacher supports students with unpacking a central idea under the transdisciplinary theme ‘How we organize ourselves’ and how the student took the action. 

It all began with a story, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – the story of a tree that loved a boy so much he never stopped giving even when it seemed he had nothing left to give. Serving as our pre-assessment tool, we explored students’ prior knowledge of, and the connections between loving – giving – responsibility, and the role that each of us plays in these important actions.

We then launched into our provocation for the unit How we organize ourselves. Returning from recess one day, the girls were introduced to Alisa Pont, representing Projec10, a fundraising group with a focus on developing a social conscience and entrepreneurial skills in school-aged children. Alisa shared a PowerPoint about children growing up in Africa playing ball sports, albeit with bare feet, no sporting grounds and broken equipment. She showed children enjoying their school day, albeit in a building with no modern conveniences, few books and limited writing implements. We could see our girls processing these images; the faces looked happy and the photos were littered with smiles, but life looked a little different to ours. After much discussion, our girls inundated Alisa with their questions to understand WHY. They wanted to know what they could do, but felt frustrated because they were only 6 years old and they did not know how to bring about any kind of change.

Projec10 is a platform for fundraising where children begin with a $10 donation and work in a team to grow that money into something bigger. Projec10 encourages children to pitch their idea to an ‘investor’ and collect $10 seed money. When this money has been grown into something bigger, the investor has their seed money returned to them. This concept appealed to us as it gave the girls the opportunity to experience investing in two ways – financial investment and investment in self. We decided to raise and pool our $10 seed money and together grow a great, big, healthy giving tree that could improve someone else’s life.

With Financial choices generate personal actions as our central idea, it was time to explore and inquire into what our financial choices were. How were we going to get $10? What could we do with it? How could we GROW it? What did $10 even look like or feel like? We learned that we had 4 general options. We could:

  1. Save it
  2. Spend it
  3. Invest it (Yes, that very word proudly came from the mouth of a 6 year old girl!)
  4. Give it

Using the language of persuasive writing and brainstorming ideas and, with the assistance of our year 6 buddies, the girls set about planning their pitches. These pitches were emailed to parents and the very next day, we had $250 seed money. The 25 girls felt ready to change the world.

Next, we explored the notion of personal actions. The girls had BIG, EXPENSIVE and TIME-CONSUMING ideas. We needed to talk about good business sense; that the best ideas are time and cost effective and create the most profit for the least cost. Using resources at our ready disposal, the idea of a multipurpose gift tag was put forward. Packaged in bundles of 5, it was agreed that $3 each was a reasonable cost and felt like good value. We needed to sell 84 bags to recoup our seed money alone and it was not long before an enterprising mind suggested we sell our gift tags at the Mentone Girls’ Grammar Summer Fair. We met with our Marketing Department and organized the Small Action, Big Change stall. Nine days later we had created 1250 gift tags – 250 bags!

Each girl committed to working for 15 minutes at the fair. The girls completed transactions with customers, worked out how much to ask the customer for, and how much change to give using their ‘finger calculators’. We raised over $500 at this stall alone and our sales in the following days continued. Within days, we had raised over $900. We gave the girls the chance to play with this money – feel it, compare it, handle it, count it and enjoy it. It was an opportunity to ‘see’ what they had achieved.

The girls wrote thank you letters to their investors outlining this amazing achievement. Each letter had $10 attached – the return of their investment. No sooner had we sent our thank you letters and seed money, the money was returned back to us as donations! Our final profit figure, after expenses, was around $750.

This incredible unit of inquiry was completed over 4 action-packed weeks. The message, Small Action, Big Change, became a living, breathing force among our cohort. Our students learned about choices we can make with money, responsibilities that come with money and ways to successfully manage our money. When we are all still talking about it months later, you know you have been a part of something really very special.

Camilla Gaff is currently teaching year 1 at Mentone Girls’ Grammar in Melbourne, Australia.  She is passionate about educating girls and has a special interest in equipping them with the financial skills necessary to thrive in a world where money is increasingly invisible.

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10 Responses to A powerful journey – From central idea to action

  1. Bertha Agekum 19 January 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Wow! Well done Camilla and your team.

    I think this is a great project.
    Did the year 1’s and 6’s work together through out the project?

    • Camilla Gaff 20 January 2016 at 10:57 am #

      Hi Bertha,

      Thanks for your feedback. Whilst our Year 6 students helped each child to present a pitch for investors using PowerPoint, the project was completed by the Year 1 students.

  2. Jessica Vance 21 January 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    what a fabulous call to action! this inspires me to bring this back to my teams and share…how can the learning experiences they present inspire action?!

  3. Angelee 22 January 2016 at 5:41 am #

    Such authenticity! An inspiriting read as we begin another school year! Thank you!

  4. Jeni Whelan 24 January 2016 at 10:24 am #

    Thanks Camilla for explaining your inquiry unit so clearly and succinctly, it has certainly inspired me.
    The girls must have felt empowered when they saw (and felt) the results of their action. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Sal Nawai 27 January 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Thank you for sharing Camilla. Such an exciting learning journey for your students.

  6. Leah Opie 23 May 2016 at 2:11 pm #

    What an inspiring story Camilla! You have really brought financial literacy, enterprise and action to life for these girls. Well done!

    • Camilla Gaff 18 August 2016 at 2:39 am #

      Leah, fortunately for me I work in such an exciting and supportive school where this type of action is encouraged and nurtured. Having supportive colleagues who engage with students as they pursue action makes an incredible difference and helps our students feel that they really are involved in something powerful.

  7. Sandra Beardmore 25 May 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Hi Camilla I feel this is like the beginning of a journey towards helping others so I am interested in what change option the girls chose to do with their profit.

    • Camilla Gaff 18 August 2016 at 2:44 am #

      Hi Sandra,

      The girls were given three girl-focussed projects to select from through Projec10. Projec10 works alongside Opportunity International on projects around the world designed to give families and communities a hand up and not a hand out. The girls were presented with a project in Ghana (a family to establish a small stall to produce income), a project in the Philippines and a project in India (a family wanting to buy goats to sell milk and cheese in order to earn income to send their daughters to school). They overwhelmingly chose to support the project in India as they recognised that an education could be life-changing and bring about improvements to lifestyle that had long-lasting effects, rather than short term change.

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