Sunday, September 12, 2021
Jim Davis - Florida Catholic
Photography: JIM DAVIS | FC
DAVIE | Peter Maynard was shocked to hear of the storms and earthquakes striking Haiti. Unlike many eighth-graders, though, he knew he and his classmates at St. David School could make a difference.
They and their families have donated 1,000 pounds of food and other supplies. Their parents and others at the church have given $15,000 in two special appeals. And the students have drawn dozens of storyboards, as a way of learning and building awareness and concern about Haiti’s plight.
Teachers at St. David “taught us to care for everyone, not just ourselves,” said Peter, who went shopping with his father for canned goods for the stricken island. “Even if someone is far away, we can still help.”
That’s music to the ears of educators at St. David.
“We’re not just teaching academics,” said Breanna Becker, curriculum coordinator at the school. “We’re molding the kids, building their faith.”
Their focus in Haiti is the School of Dity, St. Joachim, part of the Diocese of Port de Paix, the sister diocese of the Archdiocese of Miami. But the school is so remote, people have to walk two and a half hours, crossing a winding river 14 times along steep mountain trails.
Administrators at St. David sent out a list of recommended items, and students and parents responded quickly. Their gifts included cans of food, bags of rice and beans, shirts, diapers, soaps, sneakers, sanitizers, juice boxes, jars of peanut butter and banana baby food, even sippy cups. All of it in two weeks.
Students were surprised to learn that Dity is the sister school of St. David. That made the project more personal for sixth-grader Ava Paul. “It’s almost like they're part of our school, and we should help them as much as we would help other students here.”
Eighth-grader Yael Saldarriaga agreed. “It makes me want to put more effort into the project. Children are the future generation.”
The 80 storyboards, some on display on school walls, use the deceptively simple tools of crayon, marker and colored pencil to detail horrors and relief efforts alike. The storyboards show a wide range of styles, with a couple even emulating Japanese animé.
Some pictures show palms bent by hurricane winds; others, homes flattened by earthquakes or drowned in floods. People cry for help, then gratefully accept aid, occasionally via accurately drawn helicopters.
Each storyboard panel has a caption showing what the students have learned – as specific as the 7.2 magnitude of the earthquake that struck Haiti on Aug. 14, and the 1,941 people killed by Tropical Storm Grace a few days later.
“When I saw this, I was blown way,” said Father Steven O'Hala, pastor at St. David, who brainstormed with Principal Michelle Chimienti on a service project. “I loved the effort they put in, and their understanding and concern.”
The storyboarding was part of an interdisciplinary program about Haiti and its people. Curriculum coordinator Becker made a PowerPoint presentation on Haitian culture, including music and traditions.
Language arts classes had pupils produce a report on the island, with posters. Social studies classes discussed Haitian politics. Even science students got involved, building scale model homes – of paper, popsicles and Play-Doh – and seeing which ones stood up best to strong winds from a fan.
“The more ways you do something, the better you learn it, and the longer you remember it,” Chimienti said. “And the kids shared what they'd learned with their families.”
Finally, instructors related the projects with Catholic social teachings on “caring for the poor and vulnerable,” said Mayte Hernandez, a religion teacher for sixth to eighth grades. “Charity is love – to love others as you love yourself.”
Father O'Hala plans to get the items to Haiti via the volunteer group Amor en Accion. The St. David instructors plan to send the best of the 80 artworks to Dity School as well.
The project also built connections among the students themselves as they worked on a common goal. Some found, to their surprise, that some classmates had traveled to Haiti.
Eighth-grader Hailey Trebbien said she felt stronger just working with the school. “It wasn't one person,” she said. “It was the entire school helping people in need.”
Chimienti and others plan to build on the Haiti focus with their next project: linking up students at St. David with those at Dity School in a pen pal project.