Back to school with “Nobody”
By Sarah Chisholm
As another school year looms ahead, full of promise, growth, and milestones, many young students in Bruce County (and all across the continent) will soon participate in a revolutionary program that will positively affect their lives and futures.
On any given fall morning, not unlike any other kids anywhere from Grades 1 through 12 may arrive in their classrooms to find that collectively they are the recipients of a mysterious, suitcase-resembling box. The box says, “To Everybody. From Nobody.” What could it possibly contain?
Inside, the students will find a collection of intriguing materials, including one nondescript, featureless doll. Who is this strange arrival? It resembles a stuffed doll. It has no face, no gender, no age, no affiliation, no characteristics. It has no friends, no peers, no identity. It’s Nobody.
Who is Nobody?
“Who Is Nobody” is an educational program designed to inspire and develop each individual child’s unique strengths, interests, and abilities, whilst also encouraging the child to participate in bettering their world. The program requires no teacher preparation; it is self-running, the resources are reusable, and the benefits of participation are truly without limit. The goal? Turn this clean-slate “Nobody” into a proud ‘Somebody’!
Three short and comprehensive lessons are played to the class on DVD, explaining the five secret “Who Is Nobody” steps that each child will follow for their ‘Nobody’ project. Then, individuals are sent home with the provided resources and the doll for one week each. By the end of the week, the student will have made a contribution toward giving ‘Nobody’ an identity. He or she will present their unique story to the class, along with photos, drawings and letters from their very own crafted page in the class “Who Is Nobody” scrapbook. Each child will attach a memento of their project to the Nobody doll. Over time, the doll will collect given characteristics reflecting the great things each class member has accomplished. And so, “Everybody will help Nobody become Somebody!”
Armed with the knowledge that they can make a difference, and inspired by their new found self-confidence, kids who participate are making an important, lasting impact on their own lives, and the lives of those around them, in their communities and across the globe
The “Who Is Nobody” program was created in 2002, by Kelly Clark, a Toronto-based teacher who wanted to give kids “a vehicle to discover their interests and put them into action to help others.” Ms. Clark was concerned when she reflected on how kids are negatively affected by low self-esteem, crisis of identity, trying to conform to “fit in”, and bullying. Her solution was to help kids discover a sense of purpose, self worth, and belonging, using her “Nobody” program. It has been a huge success, with over 35,000 reported projects resulting from the program to date. Armed with the knowledge that they can make a difference, and inspired by their new found self-confidence, kids who participate are making an important, lasting impact on their own lives, and the lives of those around them, in their communities and across the globe.
Helping “Nobody” become ‘Somebody’ allows the child to realize that they are somebody, too
“Nobody” projects range from raising funds to support the local animal shelter, to cutting hair for donation to cancer patients, to collecting toys for underprivileged children overseas, and many more admirable ideas in between. Kids are taught that what they do and who they are matters; even though they are young, they are not powerless, or without a voice. They are not “just” kids. Kids can have a strong, positive presence in their community, and kids can make a difference and leave an imprint on their world even at a young age. Helping “Nobody” become ‘Somebody’ allows the child to realize that they are somebody, too.
‘Nobody’ finds a home at KTTPS
Katherine McFadden is a Grade 1 and 2 teacher at Kincardine Township-Tiverton Public School (KTTPS), an elementary school in the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) of Grey/Bruce Counties. This year will mark her third turn with the “Who Is Nobody” program. Four classes at KTTPS will be participating this year, thanks to community support and sponsorship from The Rotary Club and Meridian Credit Union, that donated the cost of the kits. Katherine explains that there are actually three available “Who Is Nobody” kits: the blue doll package is geared towards helping animals, people, and the environment; the green doll inspires projects of an eco-friendly, nature-inspired theme, and the pink doll is aimed at combating bullying issues. Her classes have been working with the blue doll.
Katherine says that the program is very flexible, so teachers can tailor it towards specific goals, intensity, and schedules
Katherine says that the program is very flexible, so teachers can tailor it towards specific goals, intensity, and schedules. Her students open the box and watch the DVD, and then do a group project together to “kick things off”. Then each child spends a week with ‘Nobody’ and works on their unique enterprise. Katherine has included the project in the school’s PA announcements; in the “Who Is Nobody Character Corner” PA segment, the theme song is played and students can discuss their projects with the other kids, essentially producing their own commercial for their particular cause. After completion, each child will decorate two adjoining pages of the class scrapbook with a collage of their journey and the outcome, including a write-up, pictures, and other creative details. They will add their token to the doll, thus adding a piece of themselves to the ‘person’ they are all forming. Each participant gets a bracelet commemorating the amazing final product that they will no doubt take much pride in. At year’s end, an assembly is held to celebrate “Who Is Nobody,” who has now become a “Somebody” and all that has been accomplished.
This year, Katherine projects that her Grade 1 and 2 students may launch a “shoes and socks campaign” as their group effort. This would involve the students organizing a collection of gently used (in good condition) shoes and brand new socks, then donating the items to the Yonge Street Mission in Toronto. In turn, the shoes and socks that the children gather will be distributed to homeless persons. “It’s a chance for the kids to do something as a whole, and go beyond themselves”, says Katherine. “It’s all about character development, and real life applications. Everyone has something to offer. If you plant that seed for caring, then the caring will grow. Kids will grow into better citizens.” Katherine is amazed by the variety and imagination in the different ventures her students have undertaken. She says, “Even when there is initially some anxiety, the kids always manage to come up with something. It’s interesting how personal it is for the child… it’s really reflective of the individual.” The kids are usually excited, as “they are running the show. It’s a chance to be responsible, and everyone loves to share the pride of a job well done. Kids learn a lot from other children, and they like to hear what each other has to say.”
Memorable projects from previous “Who Is Nobody” participants at KTTPS include raising money for Lucknow Adopt-A-Pet, relief efforts for Haiti, and the World Wildlife Federation. One student collected books to donate to depleted school libraries, and another collected eyeglasses for a campaign to give less fortunate people the gift of better sight. An especially crafty project included collecting over 200 milk bags, which were then cut into strips and woven into recycled, eco-friendly floor mats, which do not rot, and are useful in poverty-stricken areas where conditions create a need for ground cover. The mats were donated to a worthy cause, and the child attached a small sample square of the plastic ingenuity to the “Nobody” doll. Last year’s Grade 1 and 2 scrapbook is a colourful, cheerful effigy of the “Somebody” that class made, reflecting in it the tapestry of students comprising the classroom. The artifacts attached to the once-blank doll become an outward symbol of evolving into a valuable person. A part of each of the kids makes one fantastic whole.
As a teacher, Katherine McFadden enjoys “seeing the children extending beyond their own lives to touch others”. She sees the kids as “agents for change, with a significant role as human beings in our world.” As such, in her role as an agent for character development in the children she educates, Katherine “wanted to promote volunteerism and helping others in a social environment where such traits have tended to take a backseat in our self-indulgent society of today.” She began researching tangible programs that could help achieve this goal, and has found that the “Who Is Nobody” program is very successful in building character among youth. Katherine does both a pre- and post-assessment of the students’ knowledge in regards to the “Nobody” program, and always sees improvements. She also points out that the program is a nice compliment to the BWDSB’s “Me to We” program already in place. Not only are Katherine and other teachers seeing wondrous results, but parents and other community members are excited about the projects as well.
As a teacher, I enjoy seeing the children extending beyond their own lives to touch others
Joan Hayward, Past Rotary District 7070 Governor and District Chair for Literacy, has said, “Who Is Nobody?” is truly unique and has had tremendous success in Ontario schools. Teachers like it because it does not take very much time and is not an ‘add-on’ to an already heavily compacted curriculum. Students like it because of its uniqueness and their ability to decide how they are going to make the program their own.”
Parents of KTTPS children were polled and agreed that “Who Is Nobody” was a valuable part of their child’s education experience. One parent said: “The project exposes children to worthy causes/community service and thinking of others at a young age.” Another shared, “[My daughter] felt proud of her accomplishments. It has been a wonderful project. It has got [my daughter] thinking about others, how she can help and how we can help as a family. She has come home with many ideas, not only for her project, but also from other projects presented in class and has asked that we too help the causes, participate in the activities/projects/causes she has learned about in class.”
Bring “Nobody” to Everybody
At KTTPS, and no doubt at other local schools, educators are expressing interest in all three of the “Nobody” dolls, particularly the anti-bullying program. There is a cost to obtain the original “Who is Nobody” box, and teachers are hoping local community groups and businesses will be generous in fundraising so that more classes can reap the benefits of undertaking this program.
A part of each of the kids makes one fantastic whole
The Rotary Club is a proud sponsor with significant input to the “Who Is Nobody” program. Contact your local branch for more information on Rotary programs.
Visit www.whoisnobody.com for information. “Change starts with kids”. Help them help their own community and build a brighter future
This article was published in The Bruce County Marketplace Magazine on October 3rd 2011
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