Thursday, 20 September 2012

Encouraging Compassion

Our new Unit of Inquiry is called Feeding the Millions. 

The Enduring Understanding is: 
Farmers grow enough food for the world’s population and yet many people suffer chronic hunger or malnutrition.
The Essential Questions are:
If the world's farmers produce enough food to feed the world, how come so many people are hungry?
What are the main causes of hunger?
How do people make money for food, when they have few resources and little education?
How can local communities (like Pasirmukti) increase food production?
How do NGOs help people in need?

We have studied this unit in its present format for four years now. In that time, Feeding the Millions has been the unit that has engaged students the most and has aroused more passion than any other. 

We start the unit by watching a movie called "Hungry is the Tiger" a documentary film in Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles. There is a travelling dhalang who tells a series of stories to children in a kampung in the country with wayang (shadow puppets). Each little story is followed by a look at aspects of hunger, malnutrition, farming and self-sufficiency in communities in rural Indonesian.  Part of the documentary is filmed in India also. Our children are enthralled by the experience. It's a wonderful hook of a film! (A school alumnus was involved in the production, gave us a copy and introduced the film to our students four years ago before it had its official premiere!)

As part of the unit there is a field trip where our students go to stay on a working farm at Pasirmukti seeing food production first hand and taking part in farming activities. We ask them to make connections with what they have seen in the film. They have another field trip to Kampung Kids, an organisation where children can have early years education but more importantly a nutritious meal once a day. Some local older children are sponsored by the organisation to attend the local school.

Feeding the Millions is a unit which requires students to really reflect on their own lives while they look at the lives of those less fortunate than themselves, often the people they see from their car windows as they are driven from place to place by their drivers. It is especially interesting for our students, who are for the most part expatriate or wealthy indonesians, all well-off compared with the majority of the population living around them. 

Some of our students are amazed that there are children living so close to them who don't go to school because their families can't afford for them to go. Some of our students bring great prior knowledge coming from families where mum or dad works for an NGO or Aid agency.

As well as looking at hunger and malnutrition locally, we have a decent quantity of great library books about feeding the world and websites gathered in a LiveBinder, Feeding the Millions - What's it all about? 

So many ways to provoke wondering and questioning.... and finally the action that comes from students themselves. This is what we most want to see in the service-learning area of our curriculum.

We've seen how engaged this unit is for kids and now we are seeing the research which explains what we've recognised. It's nice to read why this type of unit ignites such passion in our children. As a faculty we have watched videos of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang talking about her studies

And as it happens I just read an article last night called Three Insights from the Cutting Edge of Compassion Research by Emiliana R. Simon Thomas of the Greater Good Science Center, based at University of California, Berkeley, which talks about compassion and mindfulness. 

Compassion is one of our School Values. In this unit there is plenty of opportunity to encourage it. 

"Hungry is the Tiger"
Produser Eksekutif: Hashim Djojohadikusumo
Dibawakan oleh: Sudjiwo Tedjo dan Christine Hakim
Menampilkan: Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo
Disutradarai oleh: Gary Hayes
Diproduksi oleh: PT. Media Desa Indonesia

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