Lower Schoolers Offer Global Support Through Unique Partnership

Collegiate School 2nd Graders have embarked on a letter-writing campaign to secure support and sales for a product that will bring light to children and adults across the globe.
The project is the brainchild of Dana DuMont, Chair of JK-8th Grade Visual Arts, who last summer visited Berlin, Germany, on a Faculty Professional Development grant from Collegiate and had an opportunity to visit the studio of renowned Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson during a meeting with members of the Little Sun Foundation. Little Sun, which was founded by Mr. Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, produces solar-powered lanterns that are sold at an affordable price to individuals worldwide who otherwise wouldn’t have regular electricity.

By the end of her visit, she was brainstorming ways to support the Little Sun effort and involve her students. The result has been a collaborative project that has included classroom instruction for Studio 2 artists, service learning and community engagement, and the potential to place lanterns in the hands of individuals in need, as well as provide proceeds to help those lantern recipients purchase more at low cost.

Since the start of the school year, Ms. DuMont has worked with Collegiate Lower School art, science, robotics and homeroom teachers to help students explore how to creatively express the societal impacts of the gift of light, and to better understand that in some parts of the world people don’t have electricity.

“Children in those nations can read during the day, but they can’t at night. They don’t have lights for their bikes,” Ms. DuMont said. “Our students were floored when they heard that.”

As part of the project, students wrote letters to Collegiate’s campus store, the Cougar Shop, and to the owner of Counts' Hallmark stores in Richmond to propose the sale of Little Sun lanterns in those shops. One student’s letter said: “I am writing you to ask you to please sell Little Suns in your shop. These suns spread light and joy! You can make a big difference in the world.”

The letter-writing exercise gave the 2nd Graders the opportunity to pitch a socially minded product to an authentic retail space and model what it means to be a responsible citizen. The project embodies all eight pillars of Collegiate’s Institute for Responsible Citizenship — Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement, Ethics, Global Engagement, Inclusion, Sustainability, Service Learning and Economic Literacy.

“Whether we're writing to students at Jams Academy, our partner school in Cameroon, or petitioning shops to carry Little Suns, the communications component of the project is an integral piece as a layer in creating ownership and lasting learning for the students,” Ms. DuMont said.

The Studio 2 artists also have created paper lanterns and ceramic lanterns and bracelets and coasters from recycled materials to be sold at the Eco Emporium (formerly the African Market) in the Weinstein Art and Music Wing in December.

Both the Cougar Shop manager and the owner of Counts’ Hallmark agreed to stock and sell lanterns, which can be ordered through Nov. 12. The Cougar Shop is also offering purchasers the opportunity to buy one style of lantern (The Original) and have it shipped directly to Collegiate’s partner school in Cameroon, so that Collegiate 2nd Grade peers and other elementary-age students at that school (Jam’s Academy) will have access to light once evening comes.

After the project’s conclusion in mid-December, Ms. DuMont hopes students will understand that they have an ongoing relationship with individuals in a different culture and that they are similar to us.

“We have this connection,” she said. “I also hope they see that they have a voice as an artist and can be a voice for positive change.”

Little Sun lanterns can be ordered through Collegiate’s Cougar Shop between Nov. 1-12. One style — The Original — also can be purchased and given to Jam’s Academy, Collegiate’s partner school in Cameroon. (Collegiate will ship all donated lanterns to the school in early 2019.) The retail price of the lanterns are: $25 for the Original; $30 for the Diamond, and $79 for the Charge. The stand for the Charge is $9. To pre-order, please click here.
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