MADISON, NJ - This spring, all Madison fifth-graders are being challenged to ask themselves, “How can I make the world a better place?”

"As our fifth-grade students near the end of their elementary school experience and transition to Madison Junior School, we all recognize the importance of their growing understanding of their role in a global community," said Matthew Mingle, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Madison Public Schools.

Fifth-grade Social studies teachers in the district have been working with the administrative team and an external consultant to develop a learning experience that hopes will inspire students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout their years in elementary school and think critically about their place in the world and how they might affect positive change. 

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These efforts are designed to bring to life the district’s mission to “inspire and challenge all students to be life-long learners, empowered with the knowledge, skills, and character to shape their futures, realize their dreams, and contribute positively to the world.”

Students will work in small teams to 1) research a selected topic; 2) research that topic in a selected country; 3) research existing efforts to improve the situation; 4) develop a proposed solution to the problem moving forward; 5) develop a visual display for adult and fourth grade student audiences; 6) communicate information effectively with adults and other students; 7) present the solution to a panel of outside adults; 8) respond to panelists’ questions about the research and solution development process.

There is a project lead teacher at each school; at Central Avenue, Anthony Cyrana and Margaret Duffy; at Kings Road, Julia Nicolette; and at Torey J, Lauren Freiman.

The More than Madison experience is the culmination of a year’s worth of work by Madison teachers and administrators to develop a learning experience that challenges our 5th grade students to engage as active members of the global community.

"The assessment of students’ abilities to collaborate, effectively communicate, and think critically about important issues will help us gauge how well prepared our students are to perform independently as they transition from the elementary schools to Madison Junior School," added Mingle.

Students at the More than Me Academy in Liberia were excited to learn about the More than Madison project.

Madison students from each elementary school who develop the most effective presentations will have the opportunity to Skype with students in Liberia during the week of June 15.

"This project is really cool," said fifth grade student and participant, PJ Giglio, of Kings Road School.
 
"This project really opens your heart and shows you what people are living through. We got to learn about different cultures in third world countries. Many of these facts and pictures we are studying of diseases from dirty water make you gasp and make you realize how lucky Madison is and how lucky the United States is," added Giglio.
 
More than Madison was inspired by More than Me, a non-profit organization founded by 33-year-old Bernardsville, NJ native Katie Meyler with a mission to make sure education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, define the lives of the most vulnerable girls from the West Point Slum of Liberia. Ms. Meyler is a 2014 TIME Person of the Year, 2014 JD Global Education Fund Woman of Excellence, Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award recipient, Chase American Giving Award recipient and Oprah Ambassador for her efforts in Liberia. Ms. Meyler grew up poor in a wealthy community with a family situation at home where no one had ever gone on to college. She credits her early work volunteering in her community as the springboard for her role now changing the lives of people around the world.
 
Students are currently working on their projects and will be presenting June 10th, 11th and 12th.
 
Information about More than Me can be found at www.morethanme.org.