They’ve done it again. In one week, enthusiastic sixth-graders attending Middletown Area Middle School (MAMS) near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, raised more than $1,200 to protect rainforests by selling paper trees and root beer floats. This success comes on the heels of three previous campaigns in which Middletown students raised funds to save forty-two acres of South American rainforests.
Middletown’s involvement began in 2011, when a geography teacher, Llellewyn Skees, started looking for ways to bring geography to life and further engage his students. “In my search for ideas concerning South America, I came across the Rainforest Trust web site,” said Skees. “I showed a colleague the site and we both saw the possibilities it offered for the geography classroom.”
Skees found that his students were not only eager to learn about rainforests, but were motivated to make a difference. When approached with the idea of fundraising to buy acres and protect endangered species, they embraced the challenge with little hesitation. “We came up with ideas, tweaked them, and then put them into production, creating the root beer floats and trees we use today,” Skees said.
“Our original goal was to get the kids to raise enough money to purchase one or two acres,” he added. “Little did we know they would raise enough money to save ten acres that year.” Consequently, Middletown students have adopted an annual goal of raising at least $1,000 for Rainforest Trust projects.
Although the idea of using rainforests as a teaching tool began in geography classes, it quickly spread throughout the school as other teachers learned of its popularity. Its success can be judged by the fact that measuring stations were set up in math classes to compare tree heights, model rainforest canopies, and teach students about rainforest dynamics. Likewise, language art students read stories about rainforests and wrote poems and tales describing imaginary animals.
Students, who have participated in every step of the land-purchase project, choose the Rainforest Trust appeals they liked best after Skees and fellow teacher, Lyle Ressler, showed them options on an overhead projector. After consideration, they voted to buy six acres of Colombian rainforest to protect the Cotton-top tamarin as well as purchase over 145 trees to reforest Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, which contains habitat for the Woolly spider monkey and Red-billed Currasow.
Of all the emerging rainforest advocates at Middletown, few displayed more enthusiasm for Rainforest Trust’ mission than Marley Kinsey. As Middletown’s top fundraiser, she will have the honor of presenting our “Rainforest Champion” certificate to MAMS Principal Mr. Kevin E. Cook.
To learn more about Middletown’s efforts, you can read a summary of the rainforest curriculum plans developed by the school’s teachers.