It was a project with soul — actually many soles.
Sixth-graders at Green Acres School, Rockville, this month collected 453 pairs of gently used shoes to donate to Cherished Feet, a nonprofit that distributes shoes to impoverished people throughout the world.
The idea for the shoe collection came from a language arts class reading of “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli last fall, Green Acres teacher Kara Combs said.
“The book had three main themes — racism, illiteracy and homelessness,” she said. “The students decided to do their class project on homelessness.”
The project included researching homelessness across the United States and in Montgomery County, organizing a Walking Museum and the shoe drive, which ran Jan. 22 through Feb. 2.
To help bring in the footwear, students conducted a movie night with the cost of admission at least one pair of shoes.
“At the movie night, we got about half the shoes we have,” Cameron Accardi, 12, of Rockville, said.
Student Aaron Levi, 12 of Chevy Chase said he decided to ask people coming to his birthday party not to bring gifts, but to donate money to Cherished Feet. His good deed, he said, resulted in about $100 for the organization.
Combs said the people at Cherished Feet are going to visit the school to accept the shoes in person and acknowledge the work the students did.
“Our goal at Cherished Feet is to bring people together to increase global awareness of the need for footwear amongst impoverished people,” Karen Koeningsberg, founder and president, said in a press release. “The shoes donated at the Green Acres shoe drive will directly impact people who need shoes in the Washington, D.C. area.”
In addition to the shoe drive, the students researched homelessness creating a Walking Museum with eight stations. The stations offered information about homelessness that the students shared with the other classes in the school. The museum got its name because the students hoped to set it up on the school’s track and have visitors walk from station to station, but that was changed by cold, rainy weather, Combs said. Instead, students conducted the museum inside the middle school building.
“Me and my friend Aaron did a choose-your-destiny-type thing,” Josh Pizer, 11, of Rockville, said. “We did it on our iPads. Your goal was to answer questions, to make choices, to get away from homelessness.”
Other stations included a Lego display that challenged visitors to create a shelter that included the basics needed for a home such as a bathroom, doors and a roof, a boardgame station and a station with a Jeopardy-style game with questions about homelessness.
“It was a teaching museum,” Combs said, adding that stations also included information on proper nutrition and why some low income people have a hard time getting fresh fruit and vegetables.
Before the end of the year the sixth grade will take on another social project. They haven’t decided exactly how, but their energy will be directed toward helping the people of Haiti after reading “A Taste of Salt” by Frances Temple.
“It’s very rewarding to teach kids who are so responsive,” Combs said.