Two Visitation students part of global summit for change

| December 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Going to Rome and joining 3,500 other students for a global summit on ways to make the world a better place were just two exciting things that happened last month for sixth-grader Claire Macedo.

Then there was Pope Francis’ address to the group at the end of the Nov. 27-30 Design for Change: Children’s Global Summit.

“It was amazing to actually see the pope,” said Macedo of Visitation School in Mendota Heights. “It was awesome that we made it to Rome and were able to participate and listen to different projects.”

Claire Macedo

Macedo and a former classmate, Alaia Ahmad, were the only Minnesota students and one of 15 U.S. teams chosen by Design for Change to present their projects at the summit.

Founded in 2009 in India by educator Kiran Bir Sethi, Design for Change stresses student-driven learning and developing empathy for others as the primary way to motivate and promote change.

The summit is Design for Change’s annual all-faith, international gathering of children ages 6 to 16 who use the organization’s approach. This year, the summit drew groups from more than 40 countries.

Tara Schletz, curriculum enrichment specialist at Visitation, and Sarah Ritzenthaler, a third-grade teacher, learned about Design for Change as they sought ways to create a “Genius Hour” for students, encouraging them to learn by pursuing their passions. The teachers developed and last year led the effort to create projects with third- through fifth-graders.

Design for Change projects are expected to line up with global goals chosen by the United Nations. Schletz and Ritzenthaler also incorporate Catholic social teaching, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” and aspects of the school’s Salesian spirituality including kindness, gentleness, patience and optimism.

Design for Change asked the pope to address its 10th anniversary summit.

The pope told the students, their parents and teachers that the summit’s motto of “I Can” must take into account the need to act in community.

“You have understood that ‘I can’ must become ‘we can together,’” Pope Francis said, adding, “together it is more beautiful and more effective.”

Alaia Ahmad

Ahmad, who has since moved with her family to Illinois, and Macedo focused their project on the need to end discrimination and racism. They created posters and a website and spoke with students at the school, including higher grades, the teachers said. Other Visitation projects included such themes as responsible use of water and the dangers of distracted driving.

In Rome, the students met as a large group, and they broke into smaller groups to present their projects in venues throughout the city. Macedo and Ahmad presented their work along with teams from Chile, Ecuador, Italy and the United States.

Visitation is competing in Design for Change again this year, Schletz and Ritzenthaler said. They also hope in years ahead to expand the number of grades involved.

“We feel very passionate about this type of education,” Schletz said.

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