Tsunami Relief Becomes Part of the Curriculum

Times Staff Writer

Six-year-old Sarah Brown returned her one big Christmas present from her parents -- a $118 Barbie Princess and the Pauper Royal Palace -- to raise money for the victims of the tsunami in southern Asia.

The Long Beach kindergartener made the decision on her own, although it saddened her. “I heard the victims needed help,” she said.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 10, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday February 10, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
In the Classroom -- A photo caption with the In the Classroom article in Wednesday’s California section about tsunami relief in the curriculum gave the name of a boy as Sat Simnaron and referred to him as a girl. The boy’s name is Sat Simran Singh.

Her schoolmate, Reina Mendoza, made a similar decision, returning her Spin Art kit, an easier choice because she already had one.

“Once I heard about the tsunami, I was thinking, ‘How can I help?’ ” said the 8-year-old second-grader.


The girls’ actions sparked a fundraising campaign at the Westerly School of Long Beach that culminated in the largest donation for tsunami relief made to the city’s Red Cross chapter, $28,000.

“When we heard about [Sarah and Reina], we couldn’t help but respond,” said Deborah David, head of the Westerly School.

“They have lived out the core values of the school in ways we never thought possible.”

Public and private schools around the state are finding ways to use the Dec. 26 disaster in southern Asia to teach students about geography, math and science as well as philanthropy.

Students are raising money for tsunami relief by jogging and dancing for hours at a time, soliciting donations and selling fruit and snacks, among other activities.

The Los Angeles Board of Education encouraged schools to set up relief efforts to benefit victims of the tsunami that swept from the Indian Ocean, leaving more than 220,000 people missing or dead in hundreds of coastal communities.

The school board designated five charities as recipients of the funds: Habitat for Humanity, Operation USA, Relief International, Save the Children and UNICEF.

Torrance Unified School District has launched a fundraiser in which students will write letters to family and friends asking for donations for UNICEF.

Westerly, in Long Beach, held a “jog ‘n’ jive tsunami support-a-thon” after administrators heard about the girls’ returning their Christmas gifts.

Students raised money by taking pledges and jogging or dancing for as long as two hours.

“Today we learned that 147 children will change the lives of 1,000 people,” David said during the check presentation.

“We were blown away by the generosity of those 147 kids,” said Nancy Kindelan, chief executive officer of the Greater Long Beach chapter of the American Red Cross. “Those kids raised more money than any company in the area.

Alison Sanford, a third-grader at Hancock Park Elementary School, was inspired by children elsewhere who were raising money for victims of the tsunami. She talked with her teacher and principal about having a bake sale.

The weeklong bake sale and four-hour jog-a-thon netted $12,233.65 for Operation USA, a charity for which Alison’s former baby-sitter now works. The students also wrote supportive letters to people in Sri Lanka who were affected by the disaster.

“Ali keeps repeating that it takes $6,000 to build a school there,” said Anne Sanford, Alison’s mother.

Their former baby-sitter, Carinne Meyer, hand-carried a bag full of letters to Sri Lanka last month. When she returns, she will present a slide show for the students to show how their money was used, Anne Sanford said.

At Magnolia Avenue Elementary School southwest of downtown, each student was asked to donate $1 to meet a $2,005 goal. The school’s staff helped by matching the students’ contributions. They exceeded their goal and presented a check to UNICEF last month for $3,435.69.

“With that money, the children could have food and shelter and live a better life,” said Jennifer Carballo, a fifth-grader at the school. As a president of the student council, she gave a speech during the presentation.

Loreto Street Elementary School in Cypress Park raised $120 for Habitat for Humanity, which will be matched by Universal Studios, said math coach Janice Segall.

Students who participate in the service-learning project, an on-campus program that teaches kids to volunteer, collected money at recess and lunch.

At Ralph Waldo Emerson Middle School in Westwood, 45 homerooms competed to raise the most money. The top five homerooms will celebrate with a lunchtime Valentine’s Day dance.

“There was this natural wanting [by students] to do something when we came back from winter break,” said Emerson principal Charlotte Lerchenmuller.

The school raised $2,673.11 for UNICEF.

While teachers at many schools discussed the disaster with their students in a variety of ways depending on their ages, teachers at Beverly Hills High School incorporated the tsunami into their curriculum.

Foreign language students wrote poems in their respective languages, science classes drew pictures depicting water-born diseases and English classes analyzed photographs; their work was displayed on a wall of remembrance.

“Connecting real-life things with the content makes the content more relevant to them,” said principal Dan Stepenosky.

Through the sale of doughnuts, a collection from third-period classes and donations made by the staff, the school raised $6,589.45 -- which the math classes helped count. The goal was $10,000.

“We have a more elegant lifestyle than they do and I think we should share,” said senior Shirley Azizi.

After researching charities to find the one with the lowest administrative fees, the advanced placement government and economics class will make a presentation to the students and allow them to vote on where the money should go, said Sarah Utley, science teacher and department chair.

As part of an ongoing fundraiser, senior Lian Kimia said she hopes to start selling blue bracelets that read “Send Waves of Relief.”

“The students here are very generous,” Kimia said, “they give and give and give.”