My Voice My Community
Students shape project's early stages

After her 5th grade class at the McCall School completed Need in Deed’s Information Gap activity, Joanna Bottaro’s students discovered that four issues attracted their attention: homelessness, animal abuse, poverty and urban blight. Donald explained how they read and summarized articles about each issue. “Then we had to debate and vote,” said Maia. Donald elaborates: “We had to talk about all four topics.”

As their grasp of each topic developed, it became even more challenging for the children to choose. Students began to wonder about how one problem might affect another, and how seemingly different things are sometimes interwoven. For Johnson, “A lot of the problems have the same issues.”

In the end, poverty and urban blight emerged as the top vote getters. “After the Info Gap activity, students began to use terms like ‘urban blight’ in a way that felt sophisticated beyond their years, and yet their understanding of its meaning was evident in their conversation,” says Ms. Bottaro.

Now the class is working on narrowing their focus and discussions about graffiti, trash and beautification are often part of the school day. The likely next step is a Mural Arts Program walking tour that will do double duty as a neighborhood assessment.