How does one person make a difference when encountering a social change? That is the essential question of the ELA unit every 8th grade student is trying to answer. On April 10th, five people from Southern Maine came to the Jr. High School to share their ideas. These five leaders and problem solvers were brought to SJHS because they work to solve community problems. They work on a variety of problems and use a variety of problem solving techniques. Because each speaker was engaging and passionate about their work, what we have affectionately called the “Hero Panel” was a success. The five heroes were:
Brogan Horton from Animal Rescue Unit- Brogan rescues animals that are in trouble. She goes undercover, works with people in need, and uses activism to save animals from negative situations.
Leo Maheu from Americorps and Portland Trials- Leo helps preserve and protect wild places. He helps build habitat, remove invasive species, and create trails to make nature more accessible.
Katie Poole from the Sierra Club- Katie runs the Green Sneaker Program for the Sierra club. She helps run energy investigations to help Maine families save money and reduce their energy footprint.
Terry Morrison from the Maine House of Representatives- Terry is the representative in the Maine House from South Portland. Terry sponsored the Anti-Bullying legislation that is working to be passed.
Gere Stevens from Maine Cooperative Extension- Gere runs the nutrition education program in York and Cumberland County. Gere works with young people and families to help meet food insecurity, hunger, and nutrition needs in our community.
On April 10th the entire student body from the Jr. High School came to the Gym and was introduced to the panelists by a slideshow created by two students from Jane Ross’s ELA class. Here is a link to the slideshow: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7ob3JhYe0MNcDk2YnJFMVJrOUk
Each panelists spoke for 5 minutes about what they do, how they solve problems, the joys and challenges of their work, and how they got into doing what they do. The students then had some time to ask questions to the whole panel. Students wondered why they did the work they did, what they thought the most important problems were, and what the best ways to help the community were. The Student Council from Sanford Jr. High announced the project they were starting with the Horse Club. They are doing a drive to raise money, food, and materials for the Animal Rescue Unit that Brogan Horton started.
After the panel each panelists led breakout sessions with each LC. Students were able to choose who they wanted to go more in-depth with. Students were able to ask questions of the legislative process with Mr. Morrison and discuss the adventurous animal rescues with Brogan. Students learned about the Portland Trail system, and more importantly Leo’s beard, with Leo Mahue. Gere and Katie talked to the students about climate change, energy efficiency, and nutrition and how Jr. High Students can help solve these problems.
Student feedback from the day was positive. They felt inspired and liked the diversity of speakers. They had good discussions in their LCs about if legislation was the right way to stop bullying and how they can help the world themselves.
The next steps for the Jr. High students are to create their own action plan to solve a community problem or a campaign to meet a social need. Students are looking at prescription drug abuse, endangered species, and many more community problems. Be on the lookout in this blogs to see how the Jr. High Students can be the “person that makes a difference”.