Need an example of how web 2.0 tools in the hands of a student can make a difference? Meet 9 year old Martha Payne from Scotland. Or perhaps you already have-if you were one of the 7 million+ people who have visited her blog or helped make her the 3rd most talked about subject in the world on Twitter, according to The Telegraph in the UK. It is the story about how one little idea from one little girl can snowball into feeding thousands of hungry people.
While I’m still a bit fuzzy on how the whole thing started (one source said it was a daily writing assigment, another said she enjoyed writing an assigned news article so much she asked her dad if she could start a blog), what this 9 year old does is pretty simple. Each school day, she takes a picture of the school lunch and posts it on her blog, NeverSeconds, along with her own rating system of the quality, taste and likeability of the meal. Partly, she was trying to prove to her parents the reason she came home hungry everyday. After seeing the small portions and making their own decisions about the appeal of the food, a local newspaper questioned whether the lunch ladies should retain their jobs. This got the local school officials stirred up enough to ban students from taking photographs of lunch which in turn got readers of Martha’s blog upset enough to go viral, ask a lot of questions about freedom of speech, censorship, food quality, nutrition – and send money, lots of it.
So what has happened? Local officials changed their policy and Martha’s blog is active once again. Mary’s Meals, the charity Martha chose to receive the donated money, has raised over £108,000 to feed hungry children in Malawi a school lunch which also motivates them to attend class to get their food. Jamie Oliver named her blog his Food Revolution Blog of the Month . NeverSeconds is about to begin an around the world “tour” where students from all over the globe will share about their school lunches. (She still has some openings if you’re interested). Martha will have an opportunity to visit Malawi to meet for herself some of the students that Mary’s Meals helps. A whole lot of people got a lesson in civics in the Web 2.0. And a nine year old girl found out that she can make a difference in a cause that is important to her. I’m betting she has learned a bit about the craft and motivation of good writing. It’s quite a different lesson than I learned when I was 9.
Oh, and Martha says her school lunches have improved.
What kind of snowball might your students want to start? How will you let their idea grow?