The project was born from an assignment for 78 six- and seven-year-olds in the first grade at Atlanta’s Westminster School: solve a problem using resources available to you, and imagine a plan you can make happen with help from your teachers. What emerged was an entire semester chock full of learning in the areas of earth science, design thinking, internet research, art, math, branding, marketing, packaging, money handling, customer service, and social responsibility. Oh, and saving homeless animals, too!
The first grade class studied wheat seeds which led to grinding the seeds into flour and mixing a simple dough. As the children played with their dough. a big idea came from a student who lives in a home with multiple rescued dogs. At her house, the five resident dogs are BIG treat fans, so it was obvious to her what the wheat could be used for—DOG BISCUITS! The key to the project was how to use their learning about wheat to help others.
From this student’s idea seed, her unstoppable teachers nurtured a monster design thinking project involving multiple learning areas and contributions from many community partners. Beyond the idea to bake dog biscuits, the students engaged in research about local dog rescue and sheltering organizations and learned of LifeLine Animal Project. They each drew animals pictured on the LifeLine website and queried internally about the reasons why people have pets and why pets are so meaningful to humans. They presented an art wall to their school with their drawings and their queries, and they used their art as part of the presentation of their ultimate creation—the biscuits—which they would sell and donate the proceeds to LifeLine Animal Project to help their local animal shelter.
They engaged the help of local dog biscuit artisans from Taj Ma-hound Bakery in Oakhurst to give them dog-friendly recipes and useful decorating tips. They collated their drawings and printed posters and holiday gift cards to sell. And then they took all their wares and participated in the school’s Alternative Gift Fair held in early December to benefit a host of non-profit organizations of the students’ choosing. It was the first time that a first-grade class from the school participated in the event, and the students were elated to be there.
At the end of the two-hour event (which LifeLine attended in grateful support), the students had raised nearly $1000 from the sale of their biscuits and animal-based art. And even beyond the accomplishment of raising funds for an organization they believe in, these young people are creating for themselves and others a world in which thoughts become ideas that create positive actions for those around them. And that kind of power transforms.