Middle School students spent a recent morning making whimsical bingo boards and intricate jigsaw puzzles. They worked carefully, filling in each square with simple images, letters and neatly printed words, and designing their puzzles with New York City scenes and favorite foods before they are divided into connectable pieces using the School's laser cutter. In the front of their classrooms, cardboard boxes overflowed with clothing donated by Chapin families.
When the puzzle shapes have been cut out, and the bingo boards colored in, the Class 4 and Class 5 students will pack up their games, seal the cartons of clothing and send their packages on an important journey some 3,600 miles away, to the Central American country of Nicaragua.
Upon arrival, the clothing and games will be transported to Nagarote, a small city on the western coast, and finally, into the hands of the people who live in Sonrisa de Dios (which is "Smile of God" in Spanish), an extremely poor barrio whose residents struggle to provide basic necessities for themselves and their children, let alone more extravagant items like birthday gifts.
"We are learning about people in a different place, and the games teach them English," commented one Class 4 student as she decorated her bingo board with words and pictures.
"They are going to be really happy getting things they could not buy," added her classmate.
The seeds for this meaningful service-learning initiative were planted last year. As part of a Science and Spanish STEAM (STEM + Arts) program coordinated by Level Up Village, which facilitates collaboration between students from around the world, Class 5 students worked on enriching projects with their peers in Nicaragua and neighboring Honduras.
Through this ongoing, cross-cultural partnership, Chapin developed a relationship with an educational organization in Nicaragua called NicaPhoto. Along with its original focus on teaching photography to disadvantaged youth, NicaPhoto helps the girls and boys of Sonrisa de Dios reach their full intellectual and creative potential through academic tutoring, art classes, enrichment activities and health and wellness programming.
As new NicaPhoto partners, Classes 4 and 5 were eager to assist the students in Sonrisa de Dios and decided to organize a clothing drive to benefit their Nicaraguan peers. They also look forward to meeting Ms. Ronnie Maher, NicaPhoto's Executive Director, when she visits Chapin on November 3.
Until October 31, donations of lightly used or new clothing will be accepted in Room 69 at Chapin. And in about a month, the donated clothes and the jigsaw puzzles and bingo boards the girls lovingly created will arrive in Nagarote, Nicaragua, making the holiday season a little sweeter for these children and their families.
Click HERE for photos.