Featured Donor: Grace McWayne Elementary School

Since 2003, kindergarten classes at Grace McWayne Elementary in Batavia, IL have been working to protect the rainforests by raising nearly $2,000 to donate to RAN!

Rainforest Heroes

We are three kindergarten teachers at Grace McWayne Elementary School in Batavia, IL. Our names are Marcy Biage, Chad Clarey and Barbara Spence. Between the three of us, we have 22 years of experience teaching kindergarten and devotion to cultivating environmental stewardship values among future generations.

We realized that some of the things we had already been doing in our classrooms could be used as fundraising efforts. Each year, our 80+ kindergarten students raise over $400. We understand the impact just one dollar can make! We build rainforests in each classroom. After watching the "Forest Family Forever!" video, the children are always motivated to complete the in-classroom activities.

Why we choose to donate to RAN

When we first decided to hold fundraisers for the rainforest unit of our curriculum, we did a web search to find out which organizations were out there. We came up with a few choices, but RAN stood out amongst the many for several reasons: we like RAN’s mission, easy accessibility, effectiveness, integrity, and RAN’s feedback. The children especially love the Protect-an-Acre certificate they receive in the mail that lists the specific projects our money supported. We also like that it is located in a state we can find on the map (after all we are 5 and 6). We are further encouraged to continue to support RAN because we often see www.ran.org on professional literature and in newspaper articles. And quite honestly… RAN is a sight word many kindergarten children can read, say and spell!

We think it is very important to teach our kids about rainforests and environmental sustainability

We worry about the time when the rainforests are gone. What will the animals and people do in order to survive? We are concerned about the extinction of uncountable species, the food chain, the cleaning of our atmosphere, as well as loss of benefits of medicine we receive from the rainforest. And we wouldn’t be able to enjoy some of our most favorite foods if the rainforests disappeared!! Therefore we have a responsibility to teach our children about the global aspects of what a rainforest is, why we need it, and what we can do to keep the rainforests safe. We try to connect through more hands-on activities and relate our lesson plans to travels that some students take or TV programs they watch, such as Dora the Explorer.

The children have three favorite projects to raise awareness and money to protect the rainforests

The three projects we use to help raise money and awareness are a rainforest play, a bake sale and building a rainforest in our classrooms. After building, painting, cutting, and creating rainforests in our classrooms, we begin our study of the layers and animals. We predict what layer we believe the animal might call home, learn about it, and then create animals to add to our forests. Our students have the chance to have a real rainforest animal visit their forest, “Tommy the macaw”. He comes with his own personal wildlife activist, Pam Otto. The children love having the chance to meet a real rainforest animal. The play the children put on is a kindergarten rendition of Lynn Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree. Students make masks, learn their lines, and put on a very informative show. We perform many times for our families and ask for a dollar donation. Many of the parents are learning, for the first time, the impact of rainforest destruction. We also host a bake sale in the cafeteria for the other children in our K-5 elementary school. Our kindergarten families donate homemade cookies, cakes, bars, and brownies. With the right amount of advertising, and some great parent help, we are able to raise over $200 from this one time event.

Our kids are becoming true stewards of planet Earth

One of the worst days of kindergarten is Deforestation Day. When we take down our forests, to make room for our Ocean Life Unit, the children see and feel the impact of deforestation. Their trees, vines, waterfall, 100+ animals and “forest” are gone in a matter of about 20 minutes. The students’ wonderment and bright ideas of what a forest is comes crashing down as we go through deforestation in our rooms. Even at age 5 or 6, they can imagine a real forest being destroyed, with so many animals becoming homeless. They truly are devastated by this—but more importantly, they are quick to think of a way to help protect the rainforests… to protect the land and their FUTURE!! Reminding our children that their bake sale and play performances have raised money to help stop this in real rainforests helps tie it all together.