Introducing microlending to students

The end of last week brought the opportunity to present a webinar on enhancing and amplifying pedagogy with digital tools to the Greater Victoria School District 61.

At the end of the webinar, I got an email from sixth grade team facilitator Aaron Maxwell, who asked about the work that I do with Kiva—a microlending website that pairs interested lenders in the developed world with needy entrepreneurs in the developing world—in the classroom.

Aaron wrote:

I am very excited to set up an opportunity for my class of grade sixes to get involved with Kiva…I would love to have your students share their experiences and maybe answer some of the questions that we generate as we approach our country study.

And if you have any other pointers, recommendations, or suggestions about introducing Kiva with kids, I would love to hear them!

As a guy who is passionate—and required by the sixth grade social studies curriculum—to help students study differences between the developed and developing world, introducing students to microlending has been a passion of mine for a long while.

Here are five of my favorite resources for turning kids on to studies of global poverty and microlending.

Where Kids Sleep

Photographer James Mollison spent three years travelling the globe taking pictures of the places where kids sleep.

His thinking was that by doing so, young viewers could see the similarities and differences between their lives and the lives of peers living around the world.

While the book hasn’t made it to my doorstep yet—it’s been on backorder over at Amazon for weeks—this link connects to an online interview with Mollison and a photo gallery that includes 23 of the pictures from his book.

Be forewarned: The images of bedrooms in the developing world are going to leave you—and your students—haunted.

They are evocative. They are simultaneously impossible to imagine and ignore.

And that makes them perfect for sharing with students that you want to motivate.

Whole Families Hooked on Opium in Afghanistan

Nothing moved my own students more than this National Geographic video on opium addiction in Afghanistan.

Not only does the reality of what “home” looks like in one of the poorest countries on earth grab attention, but understanding that opium addiction has become at once a substitute for quality health care and an escape from a demanding life will make any student wrestle with the concept of social responsibility.

That makes it a perfect conversation starter for studies of global poverty and microlending.

Sarah McLachlan’s World on Fire Video

In this incredibly moving video, Sarah McLachlan shares a series of comparisons between how people in the the developed world could make a real difference in the lives of people in the developing world just by cutting out exorbitant spending on things like makeup artists on music video sets.

What will blow your students away is how little it would take to really make a difference in the developing world.

I also like to use Nickelback’s If Everyone Cared video with students, too.

While it isn’t connected directly to global poverty or microlending, the central message—that our world could be better if we all cared just a little bit more—is powerful and the visuals are interesting.

Jane’s Miraculous Story

Jane Ngoiri is a tangible example of a microlending success.

Growing up in the slums of Nairobi, Jane’s life was far from idyllic: Sewage filled streets, ramshackle 6 by 6 buildings housing entire families, drunkards and violence regularly plaguing residents.

Things got worse when her husband left her—and her four children—for another woman.

Determined to provide a better life for her family, Jane approached a local microlending organization and got her first loan—which she used to buy a sewing machine.

Over time, she’s used that sewing machine to turn the second-hand clothing that arrives by the bale in her town from America and Europe  into beautiful dresses for children.

As her business has grown—parents in Kenya want Sunday dresses for their children too—Jane has been able to improve her life and the life of her children remarkably.

This photo essay—complete with shocking pictures of Jane’s original home—is tangible evidence that microlending works.

Poverty’s Real. We’re Helping.

While I feel a bit self-centered including it here, I really do think that the video two students in our middle school Kiva Club made a few years back is useful to teachers introducing microlending to their classes.

The primary message shared—that life in the developed world is far different than life in the developing world—is supported with images that will force your kids to think.

The secondary message, though—that STUDENTS (instead of adults, movie stars or musicians) can make a real difference—is equally powerful.

Want to convince your kids that microlending matters?

Then show them examples of other kids who are microlending, right?

Now, there are literally TONS of other great resources that you can use to introduce kids to global poverty and microlending.

I love this scenario game (which requires players to make choices to keep a poor family in Haiti alive), this video (which introduces the children of our world who scavenge in dumps for recyclables for 14 hours every day in order to support their families), and this article (which also introduces children who spend their lives working in garbage dumps).

And teachers might find this post from my blog (where I introduce several resources that can be used to incorporate microlending into the curriculum) or this Edutopia article (on student microlending clubs) interesting.

It doesn’t really matter which resources you embrace. What really matters is that you get your kids microlending today.

By doing so, you’ll give them a real-world opportunity to study important concepts that are connected to your social studies and language arts curriculum.

More importantly, however, you’ll give them tangible evidence that new digital tools allow anyone–including small groups of motivated kids–to make a REAL difference in the world.

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Pencils Can’t Fix This

Hiding the Aspirin in the Applesauce

Making Good Technology Choices