Every spring, Beginning Stage students at Near West Intergenerational School begin a new writing unit. This trimester, Mrs. O’Donnell’s Beginning Stage (GLE K-2) class focused on “writing to make our world a better place.” After reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, students asked questions and shared ideas around how the story connects with our world and why it is important to care about the environment. Mrs. O’Donnell furthered the discussion by asking questions such as, “What are other things that we would like to see different in our world?” and “What are ways we can make the world a better place?”

Students brainstormed ideas for how to make the world a better place during their new Change the World writing unit.

Boundless Learning in Action

Beginning Stage students in Mrs. O’Donnell’s class decorated signs to support the people of Ukraine.

During this discussion, students brought up the subject of war in general and of the current crisis happening in Ukraine. Mrs. O’Donnell asked students what they had heard and what questions they had. They were eager to help and wanted to support the people of Ukraine, especially the children. As a class, they began to brainstorm ways they could use their skills to help people in Ukraine as a way to help make the world a better place.

Practicing persuasive writing, Mrs. O’Donnell’s class collaborated to write a letter to Ms. April Maimone, Principal of Near West, sharing their ideas and asking permission to host a fundraising campaign. Students researched charitable organizations raising money for Ukraine relief and chose to form a team to collect donations for the Children’s Emergency Fund through Save the Children, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the health, safety, and well-being of children around the world. After successfully persuading Ms. Maimone to permit their fundraiser, the class made beaded bracelets and set up a shop in the hall during morning drop-off where students and families could stop by, learn about the project and buy a bracelet to benefit Save the Children.

“The best part about this whole experience is that my class not only learned how to write persuasively, but also learned what can come from one idea and the support of your entire community.”

Mrs. O’Donnell, Near West Beginning Stage Teacher

Each morning, students, parents and teachers stopped by the table to learn more—and many were inspired to find their own ways to support the cause. Ms. Fucile’s Beginning Stage (GLE K-2) class made art to sell to help raise additional funds. Applying Stage (GLE 7-8) students hosted a virtual discussion with Mrs. O’Donnell’s class to talk more about how each of us is capable of changing the world. Even local businesses, including Bigmouth Donuts, Bruegger’s Bagels, Cleveland Bagel Company, Sainato’s Pizza, and Sugar Bomb Confections, caught wind of the project and chipped in to stock breakfast, pizza or sweet treat items that the students could sell at their table to raise additional money. Within the first two days, Mrs. O’Donnell’s students exceeded their ambitious fundraising goal of $1,000. By the end of the fundraiser, students had collected more than $3,000.

Connecting Community

Beginning Stage students sold bracelets and snacks at Near West to raise money for Save the Children’s Emergency Fund for Ukrainian children.

While relief funds will help kids in crisis on the other side of the world, Mrs. O’Donnell’s class has also made a big difference right here, inspiring dozens of people across the school and in the community to find their own ways to make the world a better place. What started as a writing unit to foster each student’s individual learning journey, brought our multi-generational community of lifelong learners together to show how acts of kindness and acts of service can leave a lasting impact. The educational model at the Intergenerational Schools creates the space for students to be spirited citizens and take an active part in their learning. Boundless learning experiences like this help students develop an understanding of the importance of community and recognized that no matter your age, your ideas can make a difference in the world.

Thank you to the local businesses that supported Near West Intergenerational School students and their fundraiser for the Children’s Emergency Fund through Save the Children:

Bigmouth Donuts

Bruegger’s Bagels

Cleveland Bagel Company

Honda of Cleveland Heights

North Coast Auto Mall

Sainato’s Pizza

Sugar Bomb Confections

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