A student entered my office this morning. “I have the chocolate”, she said, then promptly opened her pink flower-covered backpack, pulled out a bag and showed me multiple packages of fair-trade chocolate, each tied up with ribbon. We’re approaching the big moment when she and her friend present their powerpoint at a school-wide assembly and initiate the leadership project they have been working on since last year: Fair Food Friday.
They are in grade three. How we got here is an interesting story.
They knew about leadership projects, because they happen here frequently and visibly. They approached me about doing a project on chocolate, “because everyone loves chocolate.” One thought it would be great to collect recipes, and maybe students could win something by contributing recipes.
During one of these early meetings, her friend remarked, “I don’t know. Most of the projects here do something. They matter. This one doesn’t seem to.”
“But just doing something you like matters!”, she replied.
“Yeah, but…” Back and forth they went.
At this point, I told them about a leadership project from a previous year when students spoke at assembly about the connection between the chocolate we all love, and child labour in Africa. Upon hearing this, raising awareness of this underside of the chocolate industry, and awareness of fair trade foods, became the compelling purpose of the project. The plan is as follows: They will start the project with a presentation at assembly that tells the story of chocolate, child labour and fair trade. Also during this presentation, they will invite students and teachers to contribute their favourite recipes. Every week, they will randomly draw one recipe from their box, and give fair-trade chocolate to the person who shared it. At the end of the year, the recipes will go into a e-cookbook, and a hard copy cookbook for the KCS library.
With the plan in place, the girls wrote their speech, decorated their recipe collection box, bought the chocolate prizes, and are almost finished their power point. The official launch of Fair Food Friday is imminent.
Last year, the article “Student Leadership, Gone Viral”, first published by OurKids, explained the bigger picture of student leadership at KCS. But it’s the details that go into each project that excite me most. And it’s the details that convince me our students are really learning to be leaders, because the students are behind the details every step of the way. As for making a difference, without these two students, 310 people would likely not hear about the connection between chocolate and child labour. Most wouldn’t learn how fair trade practices have been established so that consumers can make things better by their purchasing choices, not worse. They would not be reminded of these things week after week, making the memory of this lesson stick. Many would not have the opportunity to savour fair trade chocolate under the envious eyes of their school community over the course of the upcoming year.
This is leadership that makes a difference. As icing on the (chocolate) cake, it inspires me to follow their lead. And it is just one of the dozens of student-led projects I’ll witness over the year.
This is not what schools were designed to do. But they could be. Imagine what a difference that would make.
Assistant Head, Academics
Follow Andrea @afanjoy