Portland kindergarten students raise money for well at Kenyan school

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PORTLAND — After they learned about a school in Kenya that didn’t have ready access to clean drinking water, kindergarten students at Lyseth Elementary School decided they had to help.

They raided their piggy banks and donated their tooth fairy money. One enterprising student set up a lemonade and cupcake stand in her neighborhood. In all, the kindergartners raised more than $650.

The money will go to the Wishing Well campaign at the HIP Academy in Kimilili, an impoverished rural area of Kenya, to help cover the cost of drilling a well and installing a pump. The goal of the online campaign is to raise at least $14,200.

The Wishing Well campaign is a project of Go2Science founders Beth Heidemann and Curtis Bentley, who each year choose three areas of the world where they engage in educational science missions. They then share their findings online with young students all over the globe.

Heidemann is a graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor and a Presidential Award-winning educator who taught in a kindergarten classroom for 25 years before founding Go2Science.

Kristen Tedesco, a kindergarten teacher at Lyseth, first introduced her students to Go2Science two years ago.

One of Go2Science’s goals is to help students “learn how to use science and technology for a greater good and become the sort of compassionate, evidence-based decision makers we need in the 21st century,” according to the organization’s website.

What Tedesco also likes about the educational outreach at Go2Science is that it’s designed to get kids excited about science while also integrating lessons in language arts and math.

While the current Go2Science mission is focused on marine mammals that cluster off the Baja Peninsula in California, Heidemann and Bentley have also been talking about their plans to visit Kenya.

That’s how the Lyseth kindergarten students first learned about the need for a well at the HIP Academy in Kimilili, Tedesco said.

“I have been overwhelmed by the compassion our kindergartners have shown,” she added. “They were very concerned for (the African) students and wanted to help them immediately.”

That’s why the whole kindergarten got involved in the drinking water fundraiser, which Tedesco dubbed Change for Change.

She said the Kimilili area will become host to a G02Science mission during the 2019-2020 academic year, “so our students will have the opportunity to see exactly how they helped children just like them.”

“Over the course of this school year our students have observed how other parts of the world look different than where we live. They noticed things we have readily available to us are not as available to other parts of the world,” Tedesco said.

When the students at Lyseth learned how HIP Academy did not have clean drinking water “they immediately said, ‘that’s not fair,'” she said. “From there the students brainstormed ideas for how to help.”

Tedesco said it was important for the kindergartners to raise the money themselves because at this stage of their development they’re beginning to understand that their behavior can impact others.

In addition, she said, “Five- and six-year-olds are very concerned with fairness. They can recognize that they are fortunate to have clean water and that it’s not fair that other kids don’t.”

“Their natural impulse is to help and I felt it was important to let students know that they can make a difference,” Tedesco said.

Tedesco said her hope with the Change for Change project is that “students will learn that even as children they can do things that make the world a better place.”

“I hope to nurture their desire to help and to use science to do so.”

Tedesco also hopes the families of her students have learned “a bit about the power of global education and how (developing a) passion can inspire their children to take action, work hard, and learn more.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Noah Kanyambo, a kindergarten student at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland, talks about the need to raise money so that kids in Kimilili, Kenya, have clean water to drink.

Melanie Graser, right, is a kindergarten student at Lyseth Elementary in Portland. She recently operated a cupcake and lemonade stand to help raise money for a well at a school in Kimilili, Kenya. Graser earned $52 with the help of third-grader Bella Haefele, left.

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