October 29

What defines life as rich and meaningful?


Now more than ever before…we need understanding and empathy.  Please consider joining us in an opportunity to further unite us as human beings across the world.

Last year, Marlise Bosman, a colleague at Hopewell Elementary School in Bettendorf, IA, and I embarked on a journey that took many twists and turns.  She wanted her students to wrestle with the concept of ‘What defines us as human beings?”  Using a website entitled Gapminder.com, under the tab Dollar Street,  the students were exposed to photos of real families from all over the world.  Dollar Streetfeatures 264 families from 50 countries with over 30,000 photos. We had a front row seat to their homes, the food they eat, their front door, their toys, computers, their location/street/front door, etc.  The families became real to us as we discussed our likenesses and differences.   It was so much more powerful than just reading generic information about a country.  It helped us break stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions.

One of our favorite sections for each family featured plans for their next purchase and their dreams.  Interestingly enough, this led us to talk about our dreams, and our next purchase, and what is important to our family.  The more we talked,  the more we discovered common dreams and beliefs of families around the world.

We spent time also digging into all the statistics and information within the website to analyze trends, changes and factors that impact our world.  Education. Literacy. Pollution. Infrastructure. Health. Environment. Work. Energy. Economy.  Looking at the information from a mathematical vantage point, one can see the connectedness of all these factors. It is a domino effect of circumstances.  Again, we are connected as human beings.

Our classroom conversations led students down a rabbit hole that became deeper and deeper and  we wanted to be able to share our new insights and ideas with others around the world.  When we share our personal stories of what matters to us, we break down misconceptions.  The common thread became our ‘story’.  We each have stories about our traditions, ideas, heroes, fears and accomplishments. So why not share with the hashtag- #Whatsyourstory?  Our students posted their stories via Flipgrid. Using Flipgrid has given us a vehicle for classrooms to join us in a safe and effective way.  The seven prompts include:

  • Your hopes and Dreams
  • Your inspiring person
  • Your greatest fear
  • Your achievements
  • Family tradition
  • What matters to you the most?
  • How do you contribute to your family?

Our hope is that other classrooms from across the world will join us.  Look at  gapminder.com to learn and discuss.  Attached is a link for a pdf of lesson plans that will help articulate the steps for conversation.  If you’re interested, sign up, and we’ll invite you to the Flipgrid wall.

Listen to our stories.  Talk about your dreams and ideas.  Develop your story.  Talk about ‘What defines life as rich and meaningful?’  If you’re interested in posting to our wall, join us.  We want to foster kindness, empathy, understanding, conversations and perspective.  Our job as educators is to empower our youth to be leaders in making this world a better place.  Please consider being part of our work.



FROM DOLLAR STREET: (gapminder.com)

Laoye family lives in Lagos city, in Nigeria. Adeleke is 37 years old and is an architect. His wife, Bolaji is 34 years old and she is a fashion designer. The family lives along with their son in a 1 bedroom house. Their son, Tomiwa is 5 years old and he is a student. The family lives in a 1-bedroom house and has been living here for 7 years. They grew up in the area and like the location and surroundings of the house, but they aren’t happy with its size. It has indoor toilet facility and electricity which fails more than 3-times for an hour per week. The family buys all their food supplies from the market which altogether costs around 60% of their income. They use natural gas fuel stove to cook food. For drinking water, they obtain it from a water source which is 2 min away from their home. The family goes on vacations and have traveled to Kaduna, Nigeria on their furthest trip. They are saving money and their next big plan is to buy a car, some new furniture, and a laptop. Their most favourite items in the home are their smartphone and laptop. Their dream is to buy their own house someday.