Grandview Heights City School District students and staff and about 120 community volunteers extended a helping hand May 18 to children in Honduras and India.

As part of the Hands of Gratitude project, the participants, working in teams, built 265 prosthetic hands that will be delivered to children who have lost an appendage or have a deformity because of birth conditions, accidents or land-mine explosions.

Students in every grade level took part in the project-based learning experience to benefit Hands of Gratitude, a program coordinated by Kent-based Corporate Motivation.

“The value of this project is the ability people have to change the lives of a child forever,” said Matt Campana, founder of Corporate Motivation, which offers team-building exercises to companies.

The Hands of Gratitude project is one component of Corporate Motivation’s program, he said.

“This kind of project wasn’t possible even three years ago,” Campana said. “It’s the improvements in 3-D printing and medical technology that allow us to do this.”

Over the last two years, the Hands of Gratitude project has provided more than 1,000 prosthetic limbs to children across the world, he said.

“We work with partners in various countries who are able to connect us with children who have a need for a prosthetic hand,” Campana said.

‘Like Legos times 10’

Volunteers from around the globe create the parts to make the prosthetic hands using 3-D printers, Campana said.

Each team is given a kit of parts and instructions on how to build the hand.

“It’s a very intricate process,” Campana said. “Everything has to be exact.”

Participants can complete most of the work of building the limb using their own two hands, although tools are provided, he said.

The process can make participants feel like surgeons, Campana said.

Putting the pieces together “is like Legos times 10,” he said.

Most of the prosthetic hands built in Grandview will be sent to a school in Honduras that will distribute the limbs to a roster of recipients assembled by Guala, an organization based in the Central American nation.

“In the case of Honduras, they don’t really have a lot of land mines, so most of these children had birth defects or accidents that caused their condition,” Campana said. “Honduras is a violent country, so there are some cases where a child may have lost a hand due to an act of violence.”

While his company has coordinated large-scale Hands of Gratitude projects for corporate retreats, the Grandview project is its largest effort involving schools, he said.

It also was the first time a project involved students from all grade levels, Campana said.

Having so many students involved in the project “is hugely inspiring,” he said. “It’s overwhelming to see so many people involved in a school setting.”

Students all in

Grandview has placed an emphasis on providing project- and service-based learning opportunities for its students, Chief Academic Officer Jamie Lusher said.

“For us, this project is the magnum opus of that approach,” she said.

“What’s so wonderful about this project is that it really is a communitywide effort,” Lusher said. “Not only all of our students, but every teacher and staff member is helping out, and the response from our parents and community members has been overwhelming.”

In the weeks leading up to the May 18 event, teachers at all grade levels included instructional components relating to the Hands of Gratitude project, she said.

“We showed videos and had read-aloud books and discussions with our students about empathy and perseverance,” Lusher said. “We gave presentations about 3-D printing and the scientific principles about how the parts of the prosthetic hands are made.”

In addition to the academic presentations, the project also helps students develop the 21st-century learning skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking, she said.

“One of our goals in emphasizing project-based learning is not just to turn out better students, but better human beings as well,” Lusher said.

The Grandview project was designed to be age-appropriate, she said.

“We don’t expect our kindergartners or first-graders to be able to build a hand all by themselves,” Lusher said, “so we had adult volunteers and teachers helping our elementary students.”

High school students were teamed with students in grades 4-6, she said.

Each student team built a hand, decorated a carrying case for it, and wrote a message and made a video that will be sent to the recipient in Honduras or India.

“Since our students begin learning Spanish in kindergarten, we asked them to write their messages and decorate the cases with words in both English and Spanish,” Lusher said.

‘Makes me feel good'

At Stevenson Elementary School, Grandview resident Joe Donovsky was working with a group of second-graders that included his sons, Cohen and Kline.

“Since this was a project that involved building something, I knew it was something my sons would be interested in,” he said. “I think it’s a project that has special meaning for our students because they know what they’re building is going to help make someone’s life a little easier.”

“I like to help people,” Cohen said. “It makes me feel good that I can help someone do the things that I can do, like throw and catch a ball.”

Stevenson school psychologist Abby Keller assisted another group of second-graders.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing for our district to have every single student involved in this project,” she said. “It’s one of the benefits of being a small district – we really can get everyone involved.”

Second-grader Nora Thompson said she was moved by a video Campana showed during a morning assembly. The video told the story of Ethan, a child who talked about the impact Hands of Gratitude had on his life.

“He was someone who wasn’t getting a lot of support. He was getting teased because he was lacking a hand,” Nora said. “I feel like I’m giving somebody support by helping build a hand.”

Outside of her classroom, first-grade teacher Molly Newberry used her cellphone to shoot a video created by her students Zeke Fox, Rose Ritzman, Lexi Goncz and Harper Cunningham to send to the child who will receive the hand they built.

The students said they hoped their beneficiary would enjoy their new hand and also listed some of the activities they would now be able to do, including playing rock, paper, scissors, throwing a ball and holding heavy objects.

“I’ve really been impressed with how much my students have embraced this project,” Newberry said. “They really have been excited about it and about having the chance to help others.

“I think it’s important to expose them to the idea that the world is a big place and people all over have problems that we don’t have here in Grandview,” she said.

While she was working on the project, eighth-grader Sophie Andrew said she was thinking about what the prosthetic hand would mean to its recipient.

“As you’re putting the hand together piece by piece, it really puts you into their perspective,” she said. “I kept thinking how empowering it would be to finally be able to throw a ball with one hand and catch it with the other. It’s something we take for granted.”

Lighting a spark

Logan Camper, who worked with Ava Cunningham, Sophie Andrew and Nina Malec-Kozak, noted that with little effort and time, Grandview students were able to make a large difference in someone’s life.

“Just an hour or so of work, and we’re impacting someone’s life forever,” he said. “I really hope I can do more projects like this. I’m in a Boy Scout troop, and I’m going to try to see if we can do a Hands of Gratitude project.”

Grandview Heights High School junior Leah Wolfe said participating in Hands of Gratitude was rewarding.

“It’s nice that we’re able to work together on a project that helps someone who’s less fortunate,” she said.

“I like that we’re going to be able to make a video to send to the child,” junior Hudson Jump said. “It personalizes it – you realize this is going to help a real person.”

Sophomore Autumn Grant said the most difficult part of the building process was making sure to put the screws in correctly.

“It takes some effort to put them in, but you also don’t want to use too much pressure and break the plastic,” she said.

Junior Izzy Evans said she liked that students from all grades were involved.

“It’s a special day because it includes the whole community,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to get the younger kids involved, too.”

“You just feel good because you’re being impactful,” junior Claudette Moul said. “It touches my heart to be involved in something like this.”

For more information about Hands of Gratitude, visit hands-of-gratitude.com.

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