Binks Forest Students ‘Pay It Forward’

Fourth-grade gifted students at Binks Forest Elementary School have learned an important lesson from their teachers: always pay it forward through community service.

Fourth-grade gifted teacher Kathy Zangen developed a social service project for her uniquely talented and leadership-oriented groups. First, the students were asked to consider the world around them and to think critically to identify an authentic problem that could eventually solve or actively help to solve in their communities.

Students were then taught how to analyze a problem and create a manageable action plan that could be implemented through elementary school, middle school and high school — at first on a local level, potentially expanding their projects at a district, state, national levels and, ultimately, on a global scale.

This project was intended to go beyond the acquisition of service points to graduate high school. Zangen was motivated to provide a problem-solution approach to authentic problems that bothered her students, so they could make a positive impact on the world around them.

Knowing that many of her students have been fortunate to be insulated from the realities and inequities surrounding them, Zangen wanted them to have the opportunity to dig deep to fix a problem, so they could experience the value in giving back on a deeper level.

Five classes of gifted students at Binks Forest Elementary School are once again at work evaluating problems and considering how to anticipate and overcome the obstacles that often stop the rest of us from acting.

Sarah Clein, now a fifth-grade student, is a perfect example of a student who took her project and put it in front of everyone who would listen; now the entire world is paying attention. Clein, with the help of her family, came up with an idea to help a family member. Her inspiration was her cousin, Aaron, and his cancer diagnosis. “Aaron’s iPad Lending Library” has been a wonderful distraction for many children battling cancer. Clein’s service project bought 44 iPads that are being used in three hospitals in South Florida. Her project was featured on the Today show. Since that airing, another 57 iPads have been purchased with help from many wonderful donations.

Clein recently received a wonderful surprise from Superintendent Wayne Gent, who stopped by Binks Forest to personally meet with Clein about her extremely giving service project.

ABOVE: Student Sarah Clein with Superintendent Wayne Gent.