Eighth graders learn big lessons from CNN Heroes assignment
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow e-mailed and chatted over Skype about his work to relieve hunger problems for kids.
January 5th, 2011
11:44 AM ET

Eighth graders learn big lessons from CNN Heroes assignment

For a group of eighth graders in Iowa a language arts assignment turned into an eye-opening experience when they got the chance to speak with some of the CNN Heroes winners.

Their teacher assigned them to draw names of the CNN Hero finalists and try to reach out to them for a Skype session for class. Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, who was named a hero for his efforts to towards global hunger relief, shared stories with the students of other kids, worlds away, who don't have even the simple luxuries the Dickinson County kids likely took for granted.

"For our kids to hear these stories about other students their age that all they want out of life is education and a meal," teacher Chris Block told the Dickinson County News. "That's pretty amazing– for our students to know what life is really like in other places."

Learn more about CNN Heroes

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Hummingbird

    As educators we try to instill life lessons along with the grammar. Thanks for highlighting this teacher's work and recognizing that we're doing something worthwhile in a climate of unfounded and unbridled disdain for teachers.

    January 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    i am one of those kids and it was a great experience... I love what these people are doing for other people around the world

    January 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Marco

    @ Hummingbird. I don't think educators should be teaching life lessons. That is up to the parent. What type of life lessons are you speaking of? What if your idea's and teaching contradict what the parents want. For ex. I despised that the teacher's in my son's high school were telling him things like, you should turn and walk away from a fight, or go tell a teacher, you need to dedicate yourselves to servicing society, without a high school diploma you'll be failures, . So I pulled him out of school despite his A's and B's. 17 years later as I enter my golden years, I'm very proud that my son DOES NOT have a high school diploma nor a college degree but is still president and CEO of the 6th largest Real Estate development firm in the Los Angeles area and is a millionare.

    January 5, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leeroy

      Yes....who needs public education. Who needs someone to teach life lessons or things like not using an 's to designate plural words like ideas and teachers. Teachers teach students to walk away from fights because they have to deal with it in schools, not you, and teenagers don't need any more encouragement to fight. The majority of employers in my area won't even consider employees without diplomas or GED–what a horrible life lesson there. Your son is a success story, so congrats, but it doesn't change the fact that teachers have to pick up some of the slack for parents who don't do their jobs.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stargazer

      Well, Marco, not all parents are able to give their children experiences that enrich their lives, or teach them right from wrong...Not all parents are willing or capable of lovingly supporting their children in their endeavors, which I am sure you are. Despite what many might think, teachers do not have it easy. At the last school I taught at we had a pregnant mother arrested right outside my classroom for making and selling meth...I also had a little guy who had huge anger issues...then his dad shot and killed his grandpa right in front of them...in cases like these, the school might be the ONLY place that some kids have to look for that guidance, to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      LOL real estate - your son's gay.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bella

      Wow, what an awful thing it is to allow students to hear *stories* in English class from people who make it their mission to serve others instead of serving themselves. How ridiculous that educators attempt to keep kids from hurting each other by teaching them diplomacy instead of allowing them to bully and fight each other. Those must be some pretty bad life lessons. Who needs that kind of bunk when you can glorify the fact that you can be uneducated, ignorant, and STILL make millions. That's the way we do it here in the U.S.

      Newsflash–the fact that your son is a millionaire doesn't automatically mean that a) He's a success or b) He's somehow smarter than those who actually DO educate themselves in school. As a previous poster mentioned, it simply means that he won the business world "lottery." Congratulations.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scott

    American education at its finest... And people wonder why Americas educational system is one of the lowest on the developed countries food chain.

    January 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Some guy

    @ Marco – even though there is no way in this world I would encourage my kids to go without an education, I must say good job to your son, because not only is he a success in your eyes, he apparently also won the business world lottery. The odds of him, or anyone else rising to that level are out of this world. So kudos to him, but my kids will be going to school.

    January 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      You truly are an idiot.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hummingbird

      @Scott–Can you elaborate on your comment? What is idiotic about encouraging some sort of post-secondary education? Statistically, the jobs go to those who either go to college or learn a trade...

      January 6, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Observer

    I don't get why people find fault with this project...exposing kids to the world outside of their own...BRAVO to the teachers who assigned this project! Sure more educational than when our teachers had us writing to celebrities to try to get their autographs!! I am glad that Bob and his classmates enjoyed the experience.

    January 5, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ThomasD

    The most underpaid and unappreciated people in America: Those who protect us and those who teach our children.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hummingbird

    In my earlier post, I mentioned "life lessons." No, it's not our job as teachers to foist our own morality and personal philosophies upon our students (although, unwittingly we probably do...how can one avoid it?); however, we need to show them HOW to think; they can make up their own minds as to what to think about the material we give them; in fact, that's how one stimulates higher-order thinking. By exposing them to positive (yes, again, another subjective word) situations and people like these heroes, we counteract the destructive messages that our teens are digesting from the media they so ravenously consume. In a nonstop diet of "Sixteen and Pregnant" and "Jersey Shore," I think an alternative experience like the lesson that this eighth grade teacher constructed is an important one. We can help our kids do well on any standardized test without teaching directly to it.

    January 6, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Hummingbird

      And yeah, I just realized I used too many semicolons, so please let me slide on that this one time...

      January 6, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  9. Travisbosler and Austinfolsom are studmuffins

    I say that who ever this teacher is that they are truly just trying to show the kids in the world that there is still good left and heroes can be any ordinary Joe

    January 6, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. Gary Oppenheimer

    Today, I had my "meeting" with the class over Skype.

    We talked about AmpleHarvest.org, what its like to be well known, how much CNN has helped AmpleHarvest.org (a lot!), among a lot of other good questions.

    One that caught me off guard was what would I be doing if there was no AmpleHarvest.org.... that had never crossed my mind.

    The teaching staff should be applauded big time... they are showing their kids that heroes are ordinary people with an idea and a passion and nothing more. I think these kids are learning that being a hero does not require a cape... only a care.

    A few weeks ago I spoke about AmpleHarvest.org at Wharton, and today, to an eight grade class in Iowa. *Really* enjoyed both.

    January 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Julie

    I am in Bob's class and this was an assignment we all truly enjoyed. This assignment opened our minds to real heroes who were helping their communities. It sets a good example for what we, as students, can do. With these speeches and Skype sessions, we were all able to learn what it sincerely means to be a hero.
    When we first got he assignment, most of my other classmates and I were excited about researching the heroes. We were all asking, "Who did you get?" and "What did he/she do?" It was interesting to hear some basic information we had found out from our heroes, and when we gave speeches, we all intently listened to our fellow peers as we heard in depth what people could do.
    Many of these stories were very surprising and they opened our minds even further to the poor conditions around the world. One that I remember is Evans Wadongo. People in his community were not able to get much light. Kids did homework wit the light of a kerosene lamp and it soon lead to eye problems. Many dropped out of school because the couldn't do the homework.
    Without this wonderful assignment, we never would have known this fact. After knowing it, we were stunned by what lengths people had to go to, to get light for their families.
    Evans was 23 (9-10 years older than us) and if he can do this, imagine what we can do? I think this was one of the important lessons our teacher was trying to tell us and I hope we can do more assignments like this one.

    If you disagree with this assignment, why do you? What isn't there to like? Learning things in school should prepare us for life and that is what this assignment did! We learned about what other people did to make a difference and now we can to.

    January 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Snowflake

    It is cold outside. :(

    January 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      What does that have to do with the blog?

      January 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bill

    this whole thing is stupid

    January 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Atticus

      Bill......... NO IT ISN'T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Archive

    I am in that class with Julie and Bob. It was a great experience. We got to present our speeches in the fairly new auditorium at our school. It was so exciting. What a thrill it was to do this project. At first we didn't even know that this was going to result into a bunch of skype conferences! The person I drew never replied to my e-mail that we sent out. It was still a privilege to get to know what those people did and how they impacted the lives of many. I really enjoyed that project and our conferences are still going on to this day from the assignment in November. What a great experience.

    January 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bill

    that one guy

    January 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
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