The Story of the Shoes, as told by Southview 4th Grade

Editor’s Note: The fourth graders at Southview Elementary School recently participated in a special service project. This article describes that experience, as told from the viewpoint of the students.

In a country far, far away, a photographer named Travis Gugelman traveled to take pictures of people, the countryside and their daily life. His images had shown that adults and kids in Africa and Ecuador were not wearing shoes.
Here in Waconia we have a Southview parent named Mrs. Krish Kiefer. She is a photographer friend of Travis’s. She asked our Principal, Mrs. Devaan, if we could use our caring hearts to do a shoe drive. We were up for the challenge!
We began our shoe drive by reading all about the people of Burkina Faso, Africa and Shoes For Love. We were surprised to learn that throughout the year, 680 million shoes are thrown out in the U.S.A. We felt the need to collect some of these shoes that would be thrown away.
To encourage everyone to donate shoes we made posters and put them up in each school in the district. We also wrote a letter to parents of which was posted on our website. Students auditioned and were chosen to read a speech during morning announcements at each school. Our goal was to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes. We collected over 1,800 shoes at Southview, and district-wide we collected a total of over 4,000 pairs of shoes!
Once the shoes started coming in, we used our math skills and counted the shoes, then we rubber banded them and bagged them. Some of us even volunteered to bag shoes during recess. We took shoes in any shape or size. We even accepted single shoes for people with one leg.
We worked quickly because Travis was leaving Idaho with a semi the first week of April. Travis decided he couldn’t get to every state in just a week’s time, so he sent his buddy Troy in another semi.
We met him and helped him load the truck. Once all the shoes are collected, he will have them put into cargo crates and loaded onto a ship to be sent to Africa. When Travis flies to Africa, he will personally take some in suitcases to hand deliver them to the people.
Who benefits from this shoe drive?
The people of Africa benefit from this shoe drive. With a simple pair of shoes we can prevent them from getting scrapes, scratches, diseases and dirty bruised feet. In the end, they may live longer.
We, too, benefit by gaining power and courage by trying something new like this successful shoe drive. We have become better people by using our caring heart to do this service project. Our reading and writing skills have improved because of the research, poster making, speech preparation and letter writing. Finally, we all completed writing assignments after the shoe drive.”
Southview students were invited to participate in a challenge that would benefit people across the globe.
“Our students accepted the challenge with earnest, caring hearts,” Southview Principal Khuzana Devaan said. “This educational opportunity opened their minds to authentic learning that encourages learners to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. This Challenge Based Learning Project was collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with peers, teachers, and experts in their community and around the world to ask good questions, develop deep subject area knowledge, identify and solve the problem, take action, and share their experience. I was proud of the efforts of our students, the Reading Lab teachers, and Mrs. Krish Kiefer for solving this challenge.”
When asked what about this particular challenge tugged at her heart, Krish Kiefer of VIP Gallery Photography said, “I jumped at this project to help people that needed shoes. In return it helped our community grow together for a common goal and taught our kids some great lessons. I am truly humbled by the response and everyone’s willingness to help. Collectively our community gave 8,462 pairs of shoes. That is amazing!”
The Student Councils at Bayview Elementary, Waconia High School, and Clearwater Middle School all spearheaded their collection efforts along with a select group of 4th Graders at Southview Elementary led by Teaching Assistants Lisa Bock, Rene’ Burroughs, Jennifer Steinhagen, and Liz Johnson.
Chuck Anderson, Principal at Bayview, stated, “We attribute our collection success to the generosity of the Bayview families. They always respond to the needs of others.”
When students were asked about this Challenge-Based Learning project, they spoke about their favorite parts of the experience and what surprised them.
• “I felt good about myself because I helped strangers on a different continent.” — Anthony Notch
• “From my perspective, it was fun because I was helping kids that needed shoes.” — Josh Green
• “I was surprised that we collected so much. I never thought we would get so many shoes.” — Jasmine Buesgens
• “It was fun packing the shoes. I felt like a better person because I used my caring heart.” — Courtney Eder
• “I felt good because I was helping other people in need.” — Luke Petersen
• “A new pair of shoes would help someone’s feet not hurt when they are walking and they wouldn’t get an infection.” — Edgar Cruz
• “The average life expectancy of a person in Burkina Faso is 16. I would be upset about that because I wouldn’t be able to get married.” — Nick Flemal
• “If I only lived until I was 16 I wouldn’t get to live my life and have kids.” — Raven Ribar
• “If my life was over at age 16, I would be sad because I wouldn’t get to watch my family grow.” — Jordan Fank