Students learn about helping others
By Emily Sorensen
For fifth-grade teacher Marissa Ochoa at Valley Elementary, teaching her students to care for and help others in need is a top priority.
Ochoa is in the fairly unusual position of having the same class of students for the third year in a row. Last year, after teaching her ninth year of third grade, she was moved up to fourth-grade along with her entire third-grade class. This year, she is teaching that same group of students in the fifth grade, and taking the opportunity of their unique bond to make a difference.
“They’ve done such a good job academically,” said Ochoa. “I wanted to help prepare them for middle and high school, so I created Project G.L.A.D.”
Project G.L.A.D.- or “Giving future Leaders the Ability to make a Difference,” is a new project Ochoa has created to teach her students how their time and effort can directly impact their community and their world. “We look for different causes and projects around the community to help,” said Ochoa.
Each month, the students will pick a cause to learn about and then work toward helping that cause, either by raising money for it, or participating in an event aimed at helping. September had a dual focus, autism and the environment.
The closeness developed between Ochoa and her students over the past two years of school has led to their interest in helping her young son, Austin, who was diagnosed with autism. “The class has watched and learned about Austin’s autism,” said Ochoa. “They’re always asking about him.”
After learning that Ochoa and her son would be participating in the Autism Speaks walk on Oct. 6 at Liberty Station in Point Loma, the students decided to make autism their cause for September. By collecting cans and soda bottles for recycling, the class has raised over $60 to be donated to Austin’s Autism Walks team.
Ochoa’s fifth-graders also participated in the “I Love a Clean San Diego Coastal Cleanup day,” Saturday, Sept. 15. They helped clean up Lake Poway for two hours in the morning. The class formed six teams, with each team receiving a bucket and bags for garbage, which all teams filled.
“It was actually really sad,” said Ochoa. “The kids were shocked at how much trash there was, and how much of a difference one person could make.” As sad as it was, Ochoa said she was glad the students were able to participate. “They could see the direct consequences for their actions,” said Ochoa.
Ochoa said possible future community service activities the class might do include going to read at a nursing home, raising money for deafness awareness, and raising money for victims of Hurricane Isaac.
“We’re probably going to raise money for causes every month, because the kids can see the impact of their efforts immediately,” said Ochoa. Recycling will play a big effort in their fundraising efforts. “A lot of families are in need at Valley, and maybe they can’t donate money, but they can donate cans and bottles,” said Ochoa.
More than anything, Ochoa said she wants her students to learn the importance of their actions, and how they can help their community. “You have to learn how to be a good citizen, the importance of volunteer work, and giving back to the community,” said Ochoa.
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