Gladwyne Elementary School third grade teacher Jen Welby Gilbert wants her students to know that they are never too young to make a difference and that they have the ability to change the world. Over the past eight years, her students have done exactly that through their inspiring and service-oriented "Charity Project" as they have raised more than $59,000 for a variety of important causes and initiatives.
Each September, students in Gilbert's class learn about the various aspects of community and how people work together for the common good. They discuss the importance of helping others and the impact that each person – no matter how young – can have on their community, both at the local and global levels. Gilbert employs a variety of literature providing examples of ways that students can help, including stories such as Listen to the Wind, Give a Goat and Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand.
Students are then asked to think about their own lives and what they are passionate about, while also discussing with their families which charitable organizations they may donate their time or other resources to. Next, students develop a "mission," such as providing universal medical care, expanding childhood educational opportunities across all communities and economic classes, or ensuring the safety of animals. Students then begin researching charities that help enable their respective missions before selecting an organization which they will focus on helping. Gilbert then gives each student a piggy bank with $5 inside to start their project.
This year, Gilbert's 24 students spent the year raising money and doing charitable acts for 22 different charities. Students did chores, made bracelets, held art classes and bake sales, and some even asked for donations in lieu of gifts for birthdays or other holidays as they ultimately raised more than $26,000 throughout the school year. The students and their families recently gathered to celebrate all of their hard work at Gilbert's annual 3G Charity Gala.