Lisa Allen, better known as Mrs. Allen to her Grade 4 & 5 class at West Schelt Elementary, is proud of her student’s creativity and compassion in helping their community.
Sharing fictional and real-world stories in the classroom, she looks for ways to engage them in lively conversation and, most recently, supported them with an idea to raise donations for the local food bank and funds and awareness at their school about homelessness.
“I am someone who always looks for opportunities to help the community and raise awareness about issues, so it’s not unusual for my class to do such things,” explains Mrs. Allen. “However, I try to bring the awareness to them by sharing stories, reading articles from the paper, showing news clips etc. and then inspiring them to come up with ideas, so it’s not me telling them to do it.”
The class was inspired by a children’s story, Simon B Rhymin’, by Dwayne Reed, about a student from Chicago who had to do an oral report on an issue in his community. The story’s main character Simon overcomes a fear of speaking in public and organizes an “Open Mic” night at a local park to raise awareness about homelessness — and, importantly, the lesson that unhoused people are “people too.”
“My hope is that some of them will remember doing those things and then carry on that role of helping others and seeing everyone as a “real person” throughout their lives,” says Mrs. Allen.
The class of 25 students decided they wanted to raise awareness about homelessness and led two events. One was a food drive for the local food bank, where they made posters and went around to other classrooms collecting donations. Four students, Owen Duncan, Vanessa Biddlecombe, Ava Turner, and Emilee Bowman, wrote a script and spoke in front of the whole school at an assembly. The second event was a bake sale to raise money for the homeless shelter in Sechelt. All 25 students made posters for the sale, went to classes to talk about homelessness and then made food for the bake sale. Over $600 was raised.
“I find students are very interested and compassionate when you give them the opportunities to help others,” says Mrs. Allen. “It gives me great pride to see my class take on such events; it’s amazing to watch them feel empowered to do something and feel like they can make a difference in the world.”
This writer had a chance to visit Mrs. Allen’s classroom for the story and speak to the kids about what they learned. The students raised their hands enthusiastically to share their thoughts. They all recognized that unhoused folks need our support, and rather than turning away from someone, expressions of kindness make someone feel seen and respected.
“My hope is that some of them will remember doing those things and then carrying on that role of helping others and seeing everyone as a “real person” throughout their lives,” says Mrs. Allen. “One of my favourite things as a teacher is having conversations with my students about “real life events” and seeing where it takes them!”
Want to Get Involved in Food Security?
Connect with Organizations on the Coast