Maple Lane PS - Thames Valley District School Board - Who Is NOBODY?

It’s true: You’re nobody until somebody loves you.

Candace Quan’s Grade 2 class at Maple Lane Public School has learned that lesson well this year, taking part in what’s affectionately known at the school as The Nobody Project.

Designed to promote character development, the project sees a class taking a fabric doll with no gender, no facial features and no identifying marks of any kind and, through the planning and execution of projects designed to help people, the environment or animals, the class helps the doll develop its own identity.

“Our job is really to make a nobody a somebody,” said Quan, adding she first heard about the program through a colleague.

It really gets them aware of what’s going on in the community— Candace Quan, teacher

Supported by the Rotary Club, the project -which is officially known as Who Is Nobody – is open to students in Grades 1 through 12. It’s designed to promote respect, and to help students learn that one person can make a difference.

And making a difference is exactly what Quan’s students have done. Since the end of September, students in Quan’s class have been taking turns taking the Nobody doll home for one week, during which time they must plan and execute some initiative to better people’s lives, the environment, or the lives of animals.

At the end of each student’s project, he or she writes an essay on what they have done, and chooses one item – be it clothing, a facial feature or an accessory – to add to the nobody doll.

Student Miriam donated food to the food bank for her part of the Nobody project, and afterwards, added a mouth to the doll.

Another student, who rode his bike to raise $265 for the Terry Fox Foundation, gave the Nobody doll a Terry Fox tattoo. A T-shirt and teddy bear were added to the doll after student Lauren donated boxes of clothing and toys to an area women’s shelter.

It’s nice to be helping people and the environment and animals and stuff— Lauren, grade 2 student

“It’s nice to be helping people and the environment and animals and stuff,” said Lauren.

“I liked it because I can help animals in the forest behind my house,” said Gregory, who added a plastic glove to Nobody to symbolize the garbage he cleaned up from around his home.

“It’s been really neat,” said Quan of the project. “It really gets them aware of what’s going on in the community.”

Quan said the project has garnered immense support from the students’ families, and that in many ways, the students’ initiatives have become family projects.

“It’s heartwarming,” she said, adding students are always excited when it’s their turn to take Nobody home, and that they support other students’ projects.

“They all come together,” she said.

Quan, who for her foray into Who Is Nobody worked in a soup kitchen, added a spoon to the doll’s hand when her project was complete.

Students are always excited when it’s their turn to take Nobody home— Candace Quan, teacher

Because only half the class has had a chance to have the doll, the initiative will continue until April. By then, the doll should have its own identity and personality, though what that will be remains to be seen.

One student plans to help a neighbour who rescues and rehabilitates cats to good homes, while another wants to collect hats for those in need. Still another is going to try to collect hair from a local salon to make wigs for cancer patients.

“It’s been a great project,” said Quan.

This article was published in The Tilsonburg News on January 26th 2009