Why you should Tip "20 Percent" to Students

From left: Principal Seidah Ashshaheed, Linnea Skotte, Ethiopian 
Deputy Ambassador Tebege Berhe, Sally Hahn of CauseLife.
Something really amazing happened at my middle school this Fall, and it's all because of an empowering learning opportunity that was given to a group of 8th grade students.

At my school, we have a one-hour block of time everyday, known as FLEX, which provides remediation and enrichment opportunities for our students.  This year, I was able to work with one of my teachers to facilitate a Google 20% Time [1] project in her 8th Grade FLEX class as an enrichment learning opportunity for the students in her class. Her students were assigned this Google 20% Time project for a total of 9 weeks, and they were encouraged to perform an independent study on a topic of their choice.  At the end of the 9 weeks, students were encouraged to present or share, what they had learned or created from their project.  One student's project was particularly inspiring.

On Friday, November 1st, an eighth grade student, Linnea Skotte, organized a presentation on world water issues for her classmates and teachers.  To kickoff the presentation, Linnea shared some information about her project:

"I am trying to raise money for clean and safe drinking water for people in impoverished countries around the world. There are nearly one billion people that lack clean water! World Help organization is addressing this issue. They are a nonprofit organization that allows people to create an online fundraising page called My Cause, to help people receive clean water via the internet."

"I first started this project over the summer. Then about two weeks ago in school we were told to make up a project about something that we are really passionate about and are willing to put time and effort into. For my project I decided to use the fundraising page I created earlier, and am hoping to help as many people as possible through this. The people you are providing clean water to and I would greatly appreciate your donation."

Linnea personally reached out to Ethiopian Deputy Ambassador Tebege Berhe, and Sally Hahn from CauseLife and invited them to give a presentation about two separate world water issues.  Ethiopian Deputy Ambassador Berhe spoke about the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP) on the Nile River, and Sally Hahn spoke about the importance of providing clean water to all people, on behalf of CauseLife.

Linnea started a fundraiser with CauseLife to do something to make a difference. On Monday, November 4th, she even held a bake sale during Parent-Teacher Conferences.

This is the link to her online fundraising page: http://my.causelife.org/linneaskotte

Moral of the Story

Students have the ability to do amazing things in school.  This is just one story to serve as an example. As educators, we need to provide students with these types of opportunities that truly empower them to ask difficult questions and solve challenging problems.  The Google 20% Time Project is just one of the many different types of Project-Based Learning or Challenge-Based Learning projects in which students can participate to either learn about something that interests them, or create something that is meaningful to them.

Let's "tip" our students with "20 Percent" Time to create more opportunities for them to be the change they wish to see in the world.  I can't wait to see the projects that my students will create in future FLEX classes!

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[1] "The best known company to embrace [20 percent time] is Google, which has long encouraged engineers to spend one day a week working on a side project. Some Googlers use their "20 percent time" to fix an existing product, but most use it to develop something entirely new." "In a typical year, more than half of Google's new offerings are birthed during this period of pure autonomy." - Drive, by Daniel Pink