• MS Half Day, All Grades, 10:38 a.m. dismissal
• MS Half Day, Grades 6 & 7, 10:38 a.m. dismissal
• Grade 8 Moving Up Ceremony at BCHS
Sixth graders issue micro loans
Can 400 sixth graders run a global lending institution?
Can they do it better than commercial banks?
That is exactly what sixth graders at Bethlehem Central Middle School are attempting to prove. Last year, the U.S. government had to come up with more than one trillion dollars to bail out our nation’s banking industry on the verge of collapse. Despite this bail-out, many of these banks have yet to resume lending to people and businesses that really need funding. Some informed sixth graders are attempting to fill this void by coming to the rescue of some impoverished families around our planet.
Operating with $2,500 in start-up funding provided by a local non-for-profit, World’s Window Inc., the sixth graders are using a website called Kiva.org to create more than 100 micro loans to individuals in impoverished countries.
These microloans provide the start-up funds that impoverished people need to begin or expand small businesses within their local communities. Money from these “6th grade” loans are providing seed money for a woman in the Philippines to add products to her small store, purchase pregnant sheep for a man in Uganda to develop a sustainable herd and to purchase parts to fix a taxi for a man in Bolivia, who has a wife and three children to support. Over the next twelve months, these people will pay back these small loans that enable them to become more self sufficient.
The concept of micro-credit became known across the planet in 2006, when Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics for their efforts to improve the lives of people in Bangladesh. Working mostly with local community women’s groups, his organization funded small loans that allowed local people to develop sustainable business models, while developing the financial skills necessary to fund their businesses while paying back the loans.
The BCMS sixth graders, working with their four social studies teachers, Elizabeth Barrett, Jessica Casey, Katie Meislahn and Bill Reilly, have constructed their own lending institute using this model for sustainable lending. Kiva.org is an internationally recognized website supported by a number of Fortune 500 companies. It offers a connection between micro-loan applicants in third world nations and people who would like to see their money be used to help. By partnering with approved micro-lending agencies in developing countries, Kiva is able to provide loans while maintaining a payback rate of over 98.3%.
As part of their 6th grade Global Studies curriculum, the sixth graders first researched the social and economic factors that both connect and separate our world’s nations. In a project called “The Haves and Have Nots” project, they developed an understanding of GDP per capita, average life expectancy, literacy rate, infant mortality rate and other factors that affect the life circumstances of people across our planet. The students then applied this knowledge when evaluating loan applicants on the Kiva website.
Each of the middle school’s 18 sixth grade social studies classes assumed responsibility for evaluating and awarding a portion of the loans, for a total of one hundred $25 loans. Each class also appointed a “banker.” This group of global bankers must track the loan portfolio, account for the funds spent, track repayments, and generate written reports back to the non-for-profit group World’s Window that first lent them the money.
World’s Window is a non-for-profit group of local people who are dedicated to helping to improve the lives and educational opportunities for people around our planet. According to Director Chris Casey, World’s Window’s vision is “to provide hope and possibility for youth and adults in areas of need around the globe, to use education to promote tolerance and understanding, to educate children and empower communities for a brighter future.”
BCMS teacher Bill Reilly adds “by providing our sixth graders with real world opportunities that impact the people of our planet, we are preparing students to assume roles of global leadership and understand global economics on a scale that will enable them to meet the demands that their world’s future will require. Students need to understand at an early age that their planet is a connected community where the actions of each individual can have a positive impact on many.”
Sixth grade banker Henry Manley reflects “We can help by giving loans to people that banks in those countries don’t trust to pay back. The loans help people start businesses."
Another sixth grade banker, Ryan Friedman, enthusiastically responds “It’s a great idea to lend money on Kiva because it gives people a chance to improve or start a business; and that really helps them.”
So despite their young age, or perhaps because they are young enough
to have the necessary compassion, the sixth graders at Bethlehem
Central Middle School are learning about global economics while
providing a model for others to follow.
• Activities Guide [PDF]