Students, Teacher Continue Changing the World
Volunteer 'pay it forward' project now in its fourth year of helping the community.
Paying it forward has become more than a catchphrase in recent years, and at the Long Valley Middle School, it’s starting to become a way of life.
In its fourth year at the sixth grade level, the Change the World project has been more than just a year-long assignment for students; it’s become an asset to the community.
Created by social studies teacher Matt Marciano, the project requires students to come up with a proposal and time line on how they will take personal time and use it to help others in some way. The proposal is approved by Marciano, and the students are given until May to complete the project.
In years past, students have run soccer clinics at schools for physically disabled children and published books to highlight the importance of stopping bullying in schools.
Projects this year have captured a personal touch, Marciano said, as the concept has continued to steamroll through incoming students.
“Some of the students coming into the class knew in advance they would be doing this,” Marciano said. “Some have had brothers or sisters complete the project and already knew what their focus was going to be.”
Marciano said one student followed up to his sister’s project of aiding those with Alzheimer’s Disease, while others have focused on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts because of connections their families may have with the shore towns.
Another’s student’s desire to brighten the day for patients at a nursing home on St. Patrick’s Day stood out to Marciano, who said many projects are filled with personal touch.
This year’s House 6-3 class has more than 90 students taking on the Change the World project, which featured a gallery walk on Monday, Jan. 21 at the Middle School.
The walk enabled parents and students alike to see what other projects were being proposed and completed, Marciano said, and allowed participants to see the full scope of Change the World.
“Parents were impressed with the variety of different projects,” Marciano said. “They don’t have to be big in scope, just have that personal touch. The kids were surprised with their classmates projects as well.”
Beyond Long Valley
It didn’t take long for the pay it forward model to catch on. Marciano has accompanied students to take part in New Jersey 12 television segments and was featured as Teacher of the Month by “Think Teachers Magazine” in 2012.
Students have also spent time discussing their projects on local radio station WRNJ, but it’s the recent attention from far away peers that is standing out to Marciano.
The New Jersey Education Association sent a “Classroom Closeup” segment to other teaching unions across the country that featured the project, Marciano said, who was later contacted by a teacher in San Francisco.
“(The teacher) reached out to me out of the blue and said she wanted to have the program in her school,” Marciano said. “I sent her the materials and what is entailed. It looks like she’ll be implementing a variation of the idea for students.”
The purpose of the project, Marciano says, is to continue volunteering and making the world a better place even after students leave his classroom for good.
At this rate, Long Valley’s future will be full of volunteer do-gooders in no time.