|Rainforest artwork by a Portage Park student
|“Help Portage Park Save The Rainforest”
|T-Shirt sold for Earth Day|
For the past seven years, Ewa Shimasaki and the students at Portage Park Elementary have dedicated themselves to saving the rainforest by raising funds for Rainforest Trust through a variety of creative and successful fundraisers. Since 2007, they have raised over $6,000. The 2013-2014 school year, however, proved to be one of their most successful yet: the school raised $1191.55 to save acres in the Peruvian Amazon and on the Indonesian island of Sangihe.
Since 2007, Shimasaki has rallied the students and faculty at Portage Park Elementary to get involved in the effort to save the world’s tropical forests, holding fundraisers each year. “I started getting the students to fundraise,” she explained, “because I stay aware of what is happening in the world and I’ve always wanted to bring that sense of awareness to my students. I wanted to expose them to a need in the Earth whose solution they can contribute to.”
After years of fundraising, Shimasaki said she wanted new ideas for how to get the students engaged, so she turned to her fellow teachers for their collaboration. Beginning last year, Shimasaki spoke with the art teachers at her school about getting their classes involved in the projects. The art teachers soon incorporated the rainforest into their curriculum by having the students create artwork inspired by rainforest animals. The older students were taught how to sew and created felt birds, while the younger students produced water color paintings.
The artwork was then put on display during the school’s parent-teacher conferences, where parents could view and purchase their students’ work. This also provided the opportunity for the public to see the students’ fundraising efforts. The sales at the parent-teacher conferences were encouraging, but the students were determined to raise more.
Soon the fundraising became a truly school-wide project. According to Shimasaki, “The whole school embraced it from top to bottom – from the administrators to the students. The kids were really into it, and tried to help as much as they were able. For instance, the Environmental Club donated their time to our art sale by manning the tables at the conferences.” Teachers and office staff also contributed their time on their day off to help run sales tables and handle the money.
The school’s next idea was to sell t-shirts for Earth Day, which proved to be an effective fundraiser. “The shirts were designed with an Earth Day theme, featuring an owl sitting in a tree,” Shimasaki said. “The students were excited to buy the shirts because they were allowed to wear them instead of their normal school uniforms!”
To close out the year, the students held one last fundraiser: a potted plant and button sale for Mother’s Day. “Mother Earth, Mother’s Day – it tied in very nicely,” Shimasaki said. Thanks to a students’ relative who owns a button-making company, the class was able to get 100 Mother’s Day buttons donated. Students from the Student Council and the Environmental Club helped with the sale of the plants and buttons, giving up their lunch time to run the tables where the items could be purchased.
By the end of the year, Portage Park Elementary had raised a total of $1191. The funds were evenly split between Rainforest Trust’s projects in the Peruvian Amazon and on the Indonesian island of Sangihe.
“We decided to donate to the project in Sierra del Divisor because we knew we could save the greatest number of acres for our donation there. We’re also very interested in birds, so we decided to donate the other half to the project in Sangihe since there are so many threatened bird species there,” Shimasaki said.
Through these fundraisers, Shimasaki thinks the students have learned something valuable: “They’ve learned that there are aspects of this world that need our protection, and that anyone – even young students – can protect it if they are willing to work for it.”