Upper Arlington News

School fundraiser focuses on Fair Trade


Upper Arlington's Wickliffe Progressive School is going global in a new fundraising effort, offering inexpensive Fair Trade items such as hacky sacks and woven hats from Guatemala, Maasai bangles from Kenya and bone-and-bead bracelets from India.

Prices range from $2 to about $25 for most items.

Principal Chris Collaros said the most important thing to know about the Fair Trade fundraiser is that it supports the school curriculum, including "the curriculum of civility, community and compassion."

"Using Fair Trade as a fundraising opportunity was brought by the PTO to teachers precisely because the PTO understood its great potential as a learning experience," he said.

Fair Trade goods are items that come from farmers and workers in other countries who are justly compensated, according to information from Fair Trade USA. The organization helps farmers and people in developing countries build sustainable businesses for free-market trade.

Teacher Jody Blair, who teaches a multi-age classroom for third- and fourth-graders, said she introduced a lesson about Fair Trade by asking students to "become cocoa farmers from the Dominican Republic."

"The class was divided into five groups of farmers who had to work together and 'harvest' a crop of cocoa beans," Blair said. "Each group was handed two different cards that affected the outcome of the harvest. Good cards gave them extra beans for things like good weather, no diseases, fixing their tools and sharing tools.

"Bad cards took beans away for things like storms destroying trees, having to buy new tools, buying medicine, spoiled beans from the rain and the trees catching black pod (disease)," she said.

Blair said students learned that not all buyers of the cocoa beans were fair or honest, that some did not weigh the beans correctly because of a fixed scale or did not pay the farmer for all of the beans.

"One farm was a member of the Fair Trade cooperative," she said. "Their buyer was friendly and paid them more than market value so they could make a good living and grow crops in a way that was good for the environment.

"The children learned that Fair Trade companies make sure that their workers have enough money to support their families, stay on their land and strengthen their communities," she said.

She said the class is in the beginning stages of a service learning project where they will focus on at least one of the countries that provides items for the fundraiser, looking at issues in that country, such as homelessness, water supply, hunger and education.

"Our focus groups will research and present to the class, trying to raise awareness and persuade others to join their cause," she said. "From there, we will narrow down our project focus and align that with one of the countries from which we are currently selling products. The service product piece has yet to be determined -- right now, we are focusing on the learning."

Collaros said the progressive education components taught at Wickliffe mean lessons are designed to be authentic real-world learning experiences.

"We see components of social studies, mathematics, reading and writing in Mrs. Blair's lessons," he said. "Children become invested in the learning. It's exciting to consider how children will come to understand how they can make a difference."

PTO co-chairwomen Tricia Baxley and Cat Hiller organized Fair Trade sale times at the school at lunchtimes and after school, with a public sale planned from 5 to 8 p.m. May 10 at Wickliffe's Spring Fling, at 2405 Wickliffe Road.

"Fair Trade was appealing for our fundraiser because it embodies the principles of Wickliffe, where everyone is treated fairly at every stage and teachers raise children's consciousness by encouraging them to examine issues within society," Baxley said.

"Buying Fair Trade items means you are helping to keep kids out of factories and putting roofs over their heads in those countries."

She said the educational component drives the fundraiser.

"The kids can learn about the different countries and why they picked this product over another," she said. "We are calling it a fundraiser with a meaning."

She said the PTO is developing a website to sell the products online; at wickliffepto.org, click on "Wickliffe goes global" for more information about the fundraiser.

She said the fundraiser will be a year-round endeavor.

"Our web-based products will change and many will align with different holidays," she said.