Ninth Graders Wearing Ties, Kyrgyzstan, and Kiva Loans

Last Tuesday, 40 ninth graders were confidently presenting elevator pitches to the 2 teachers, the Head of Humanities, the Head of Academics, and the Head of School.  The boys were wearing ties, if you need proof that it was big deal.  They were answering incredibly tough questions about loan conditions, delinquency rates and the effectiveness of microloans in helping countries develop economically.  They were speaking about places like Uruguay and Kyrgyzstan. They were using persuasive language, thinking on their feet, and showing off.

I have never been so proud of my students as I was last week.

For years I have wanted to teach students about Kiva. If you don’t know Kiva, please go check it out.  It provides microloans to individuals who can’t receive funding for things like expanding inventory in a store or buying additional farming equipment in traditional way. Microfinancing isn’t perfect, but I like the idea of being thoughtful about where my money is going and being able to reinvest it when the money is repaid.  So when I started planning my grade 9 MYP Humanities class, I knew this would be the perfect time to introduce the concept of Kiva.  So I gave them a challenge to find a loan and convince me to loan money to the Kiva project.  Based on their recommendations, I would donate $200 to a Kiva Project.  But first they had to earn it.

The context:

  • Unit: Development
  • Unit Question:  How can we make the world a more equal place?

The assignment:

  • In small groups, pick a Kiva project to fund, research the project and the country being affected.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch (60-120) seconds to convince Ms. Madrid to loan money to your project.
  • Prepare a written grant proposal with more specifc information.
  • Present and take questions from both Individuals and Societes classes and a panel of adults.

The Day:

  • Like I said, we combined classes.  So there were about 15 presentations and 40 kids. We moved all the desks out of the room and set up auditorium seating. Amazing how changing the physical space really changed the dynamic in the classroom. 
  • The adult panel: I owe a huge thanks to everyone who helped out on the day of the elevator pitches. They were:  Adam Seldis, Head of Department and IB Economics Teacher. James MacDonald, Head of School and Business Studies Class.  Dennis Stanworth, Head of Academics.  Ben McKeown, the other Individuals and Societies Teacher. And finally, myself. The question these adults asked were tough. And very specific to their field. At one point, Adam turned to me and asked if the questions were too specific. But as a preparation for DP Economics or Business Studies, I thought it was awesome to have students think about these questions. And they were questions I never would have thought of on my own, because I don’t teach those subjects.  I think the kids handled them incredibly well. Students had to really justify their reasons for funding a project. And sometimes bluff their way through an answer, using what knowledge they did have.  Which is pretty true-to-life.
  • Students had a maximum of 120 seconds and they were almost always right on target.  They acted as an engaged audience, listening and asking questions. I have the most amazing students. And did I mention, they were wearing ties?

The result

  • One huge problem was the loans students chose to research were fully funded by the time the project was due.  So we couldn’t support the loans the originally picked.  Which is not ideal, to say the least. Next year I will need to speed up the project. But based on their knowledge as a class they come up with a criteria for loaning money.
    1. They wanted to fund a group loan, because they thought it had the largest “bang for the buck” in terms of the effect of the loan
    2. They wanted to fund loans that would benefit women, arguing if women were healthy economically that would have a large impact on their children.  They were also aware that many of the loans on Kiva were for women who were making applications on behalf of their husbands/sons (which is a bit shady on Kiva’s part, in my opinion) and wanted to avoid funding those loans.
    3. They were sticklers for making sure the loan was safe.  They did not want to pick a loan that was appealing only to emotion.  They were pretty ruthless.

The Take-Away-

My class decided to fund two loans and as a class, we will track the loan for the year. These are not loans I would have chosen of my own volition, but my students showed a level of thoughtfulness that I don’t always have myself. 

  • It is fantastic to bring in other people to the class.  The best (and most nerve-wracking)  thing I did was inviting all the Heads.  It added a level of seriousness, new perspectives, and a real chance for my students to show how great the are.
  • Next year I really want to use the Business Studies students.  Maybe other schools in the countries we are looking at.  I think these is a lot of room more more collaboration in this.
  • Does it get any better than this reflection?

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in Humanities, MYP Humanities and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Ninth Graders Wearing Ties, Kyrgyzstan, and Kiva Loans

  1. Adam Seldis says:

    You guys are doing such a fantastic job with the I&S course. This project is exactly what it’s all about. Some great learning and the students clearly loved the challenge. I thought they were especially impressive in the Q&A sections. We really were asking them some tough questions and they stood up to the test incredibly well. Well done to all the G9 I&S students.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a great learning opportunity! Wouldn’t it be great if all classrooms around the world had this experience? Imagine if all students around the world were given the task of finding the best way to lift people out of poverty – I am sure they would be more successful than the corporate bullies and their token corporate social responsibility funds! Well done Rebekah and 9th Grade I&S class.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! Later in the year we’ll be studying corporate social responsibility funds and it’ll be interesting to see how the students view that in light of this unit. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. The Geophyte says:

    This sounds fantastic. I’m definitely going to try to find a way to work it into my classes. What a wonderful way to demonstrate the relevance of Geography while imparting lessons about social responsibility and microfinance.

  4. Kim Cofino says:

    Amazing! Your class is so ready for a Flat Classroom project! Have you looked into joining one (in addition to attending the workshop)? Basically it would be taking everything that you’ve done here and bringing it to a globally collaborative level – not just students in class collaborating, but also with others around the world. This sounds like the perfect class to make it happen!

    • When I first started thinking about this class I never realized how much I could naturally integrate transformative technology into my classroom. I do think I&S would be perfect for Flat Classroom and I’m going to have to sit down and see how I can make that work.

  5. Pingback: Then and Now: Project Based Learning | Rebekah Madrid

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